by Chuck Sharman
Tennessee-based Corizon Health, one of the nation’s largest private for profit health care providers to prisons, with annual revenues of at least $800 million, announced on November 3, 2021, that it had received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) “to expand distance learning and telemedicine services to rural areas,” according to a company press release.
The grant from USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine program totals $967,356, which Corizon promised to invest in “special equipment and a video conferencing platform to speak to and evaluate patients via video conferencing.”
“This is particularly important,” the firm added, when the patient is locked up “in a rural or remote area where the number of healthcare providers and specialty services available is limited or in some cases nonexistent.”
Yet that problem is itself a result of a conscious decision to move prisons and jails out of urban areas, so that “the most outsized jails are now in the least populous areas,” according to a June 2017 report from the Vera Institute of Justice.
An August 2017 report by the U.S. Census Bureau agreed, finding “that a disproportionate share of prisons and inmates are located in rural areas, while a disproportionate share of inmates are from urban areas.”
News of the grant award arrives at the same time that Corizon’s new parent, Flacks Group, a Miami-based investment firm which acquired the firm in 2020, is looking to make the purchase one of its “major investments in companies that have strong prospects but face complex operating environments,” according to Managing Partner Michel Rybkin.
Contributing to that environment’s complexity are headwinds of the firm’s own making, losing contracts and revenue due to problems like those documented in an October 2020 report by Reuters, which found that “in the last years of Corizon’s watch from 2014 to 2016,” at the Chattam County Detention Center in Savannah, Georgia, “prescription drugs went missing, patients deemed gravely ill by medical staff were denied hospitalization, mentally ill inmates went untreated and records were falsified.”
“Weeks passed with no doctor on site, leaving care to nurses and video calls with doctors,” the report said, and “the jail’s 400 mentally ill inmates, nearly a quarter of its population, were treated by a sole psychiatrist.”
A July 31, 2021, report by Newsweek noted that 49 state prison systems currently rely on contracted health care providers like Corizon and its four main competitors, NaphCare Inc., PrimeCare Medical Inc., Armor Correctional Health Services Inc. and the largest of them all, Wellpath Holdings Inc.
PLN readers are well familiar with the greed and endemic neglect which Corizon has engaged in for decades. That the federal government is doling out grants to the likes of Corizon brings new meaning to the term corporate welfare.
Sources: Corizon Health, Reuters, Newsweek, Vera Institute of Justice, U.S. Census Bureau
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