Employees of Corizon, the country’s largest correctional health care provider, delayed in sending injured Alabama prisoners to hospitals and could have prevented at least two deaths by doing so, according to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal nonprofit specializing in civil rights.
The SPLC said on Thursday it’s seeking class action status in a lawsuit alleging that the Alabama’s corrections department is “deliberately indifferent” to prisoners. The lawsuit, which names 43 prisoners alleging their lives were put at risk and their medical and mental health care needs went ignored, is expected to go to trial next year, according to the law center.
When correctional health care providers face “financial difficulties,” employees, like those at Corizon, face pressure to delay or deny medical care to cut costs, according to the report.
“The cold, hard reality is that every dime saved on prisoner care is a dime added to the company’s bottom line,” the law center said.
Albama inmate Kelly Green, who suffered from schizophrenia, was not medically screened when he was booked into the Lane County Jail, according to court documents. Green ran into a courtroom wall after becoming upset during a court appearance, splitting his head open and fracturing his neck.
He was treated in the jail’s medical unit, but was not taken to a hospital while he was in custody. SPLC alleges that Corizon employees gave Green a “courtesy drop” at a hospital after he was released so the company could avoid paying the bill for his treatment. Green lost the use of his arms and legs, and died six months later of complications from the ventilator he was dependent upon to breathe.
“If he had gone to the hospital before being released, Corizon would have had to pay the hospital bill,” Elden Rosenthal, Green’s family’s lawyer, told the law center.
Green’s family sued Corizon, and reached a financial settlement in July 2015, the details of which are confidential. But Green is only one of hundreds of other inmates to take legal action against the health care provider, according to the law center.
“The Green case, like many others, raises the question of whether Corizon and its competitors place profits over the health and safety of prisoners who have no ability to choose their medical provider – and whether corrections officials should allow them to do so,” the law center said.
In response to the allegations, Corizon spokewoman Martha Harbin fired back at the law center:
“The Southern Poverty Law Center has issued a biased report that we can only assume was written to influence the court in litigation involving Corizon Health. It should be noted that allegations in past litigation filed by SPLC against a Corizon Health client were found by a US district judge to have no factual basis and SPLC narrowly avoided sanctions in that case,” she told Business Insider in a statement.
“None of our clinical staff is compensated based on the financial performance of our contracts or our company as a whole.”
The SPLC did previously take legal action against Corizon and lost. In April 2015, a federal judge ruled that the law center failed to prove its allegations that Florida juveniles were treated with “deliberate indifference” and were not provided necessary mental health treatment.