Last week, Corizon, a for-profit correctional healthcare company receiving $372 million from Arizona taxpayers, infected 24 incarcerated people with Hepatitis B and C. The life threatening exposures occurred when a nurse disregarded proper injection protocol, said Clarisse Tsang, the Department of Health Services hepatitis-prevention coordinator.
Despite public concern for the lives of those incarcerated in the Arizona jail, Corizon did not make a statement about exposing patients to natural born pathogens until three days later, and still refuses to answer more specific questions.
In 2012, 103 people in the exact same prison were contaminated with hepatitis C by Wexford staff, a for-profit healthcare company that previously ran Arizona’s correctional health care, until their contract was not renewed in light of public criticism over multiple violations. Activists called for Arizona to take responsibility for providing adequate, safe health care in prisons, pointing out that privatization only further complicates medical care deficiencies.
However, the contract for all of Arizona’s state correctional health care was awarded to Corizon, which has a history of illegal and deadly health care practices against those imprisoned, resulting in over 660 malpractice lawsuits in the last five years.
In fact, a former CMS nurse, a Corizon company, has been quoted as saying, “We save money because we skip the ambulance and bring them right to the morgue.” In Idaho, the Idaho State Correctional Institution charged that Corizon’s “care” amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Despite these and many other public acknowledgements of Corizon’s violations, states continue to award it with multi-million dollar contracts. Often the rationale from states is that private correctional care costs less, but Corizon operates on a profit model unlike health care in other industries. Rather than being motivated to increase service delivery and quality, Corizon’s profits are made by providing fewer medications, fewer procedures, and less staff. In light of this, it is clear why an independent study by the University of California found that mortality actually increases with privatized correctional care.
We believe no one should profit from the incarceration of others. Likewise, no one should profit from the negligent, life-impacting harm inflicted on 24 Arizonans.