As PLN has reported, rappers Jay-Z and Yo Gotti created Team Roc, which is team of attorneys, to represent 227 prisoners held at the Mississippi State Prison at Parchman to sue MDOC and Centurion in the wake of seven prisoner deaths over 50 days. The deaths occurred after riots in January 2020 at Parchman and other prisons throughout the state. (See PLN, July 2020, p.1.)
In a July 7, 2020, letter to MDOC Commissioner Burl Cain, Centurion said, “We do not believe we can further improve the effectiveness of our level of care without additional investment from [MDOC] in correctional staffing and infrastructure along the lines of what we have already recommended.” The withdrawal of services became effective on October 5, 2020.
Team Roc attorney Marcy Croft said she hopes the letter gets the attention of Gov. Tate Reeves. “It’s time to invest in the health and well-being of the people in your prisons,” Croft said. “We will not stop until the incarcerated receive consistent and competent medical care, especially now with the COVID-19 crisis. This must be a priority.”
Centurion abandoned a contract that paid it $268 million since 2015. In fiscal year 2019, MDOC paid Centurion more than $52 million. Politicians may also suffer a loss to their coffers, as Centurion has been a huge contributor. Since 2010, Centene, the parent company of Centurion, its political action committee, and employees have given $215,000 to Reeves’ campaign. Between 2018 and 2020, the company also contributed $35,000 to state House Speaker Philip Gunn and $10,000 to Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann Jr.
It seems ironic that a for-profit company that has been named in hundreds of lawsuits for alleged deliberate indifference to prisoners’ health care needs would drop a contract. The bottom line, however, appears to be at the forefront for such companies, and that Centurion decided to abandon such a huge contract points to dismal prospects for Mississippi prisoners.
Dr. Marc Stern was hired by Team Roc. He is an expert in prison health care and has evaluated dozens of prisons throughout the nation. He witnessed exposed wiring, some of it near standing water, at Parchman. “The conditions under which residents exist in Parchman are subhuman and deplorable in a civilized society,” Stern was quoted as saying.
Prison health care is now being provided by VitalCore Health Strategies, Clarion Ledger reported in January 2021.
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