After a prolonged battle, Florida has set a date for when its prison health care system will be privatized, booting nearly 2,000 state employees out of their jobs. On August 1 of this year, Corizon Inc. — a Tennessee-based company with a sordid history of abuse — will become the major provider of health care to people in the state’s penal system.
In a letter, Florida’s Secretary of Corrections Mike Crews informed 1,756 employees that they will be out of work when the transfer happens: “The position you currently occupy with the Department will no longer be available,” Crews’s letter to employees said. He adds that the laid off workers will be able to apply for jobs with Corizon, but that such positions might pay less, with no pension benefits.
The Tampa Bay Times has labeled the transfer to Corizon “the nation’s largest outsourcing of prison medical care,” a $230 million deal between Florida Gov Rick Scott (R) and the company.
It took a while for privatization to proceed, since courts repeatedly struck down the deal because Florida’s government tried to circumvent the regular legislative process in order to gain approval. Ultimately, an appeals court upheld the privatization, allowing it to move forward at a rapid clip.
But all the battles over privatization failed to address Corizon’s history of treating inmates terribly. Last year in Kentucky, two inmates died following negligence by prison staff. In fact, six Corizon employees were so scandalized by the treatment of prisoners that they resigned their posts. In Idaho, a separate investigation showed that Corizon was responsible for inhumane treatment of prisoners. Maryland chose to drop Corizon after finding negligence in prisons, and Philadelphia discovered that the company was using a “sham contractor” to run its prisons.
It’s possible that Rick Scott’s motives aren’t as pure as saving the state money — private prison companies have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to elected officials, mostly Republicans, and have donated over $100,000 to Scott’s re-election.