Justice

Prison Doctor Allegedly Took Away Inmate’s Wheelchair To Punish Him For Complaining About Abuse

CREDIT: AP

A maximum security facility at the Arizona State Prison in Florence, Arizona.

The for-profit prison health care company Corizon continues to fight accusations from around the country that they have abused or neglected the inmates in their care.

In a new case in Fresno County, California, an inmate with a degenerative spinal disease says a Corizon doctor took his wheelchair away in retaliation for his previous complaints about her. When detectives with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office investigated the complaint, they found the company had also appeared to have falsified and altered the inmate’s medical records to cover up the abuse, as documented in a search warrant revealed by the local ABC channel.

These allegations come just four months after Corizon took over operations at the jail, a $100 million contract they won based largely on a promise to save Fresno County $5 million.

Nearby California counties have found that lawsuits against the company for the death of inmates can make an originally cheap contract quite expensive. The company paid the largest wrongful death settlement in state history in February to Alameda County, and promised to end its cost-cutting tactic of using less-trained vocational nurses instead of registered nurses.

Corizon also paid a settlement last week — the amount is secret — to the family of an inmate in Minnesota who died in their care. Jerrell Hammond, 34, begged Corizon doctors to be taken to an emergency room in the hours leading up to his death from blood clots. The case follows several other wrongful death and neglect lawsuits against the company from other inmates and their families that have been filed in recent years, including a case in which Corizon staff put a note reading “faker” in a suffering inmate’s medical file, then later destroyed the note when he became partially paralyzed due to lack of treatment.

And in Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union is investigating multiple claims that Corizon staff have been denying HIV medication to inmates. Corizon responded that the allegations are “untrue” but refused to comment further. Local advocates warn the situation is causing a public health crisis both in the jail and the greater community as untreated offenders are released.

Early this year in the same county, an inmate died after not receiving his epilepsy medication.

Corizon is currently gunning for a $66 million contract to take over operations at DC’s two local jails, paying for ads on Twitter and Google, hiring local insiders to lobby on their behalf, and enlisting the powerful PR firm Edelman.

Referencing the many lawsuits against the company, which can be massively costly for any county or city that works with Corizon, the Chair of the DC Council just announced his opposition to awarding Corizon the contract.