Centurion, part of the Centene Corporation and a healthcare provider to inmates at prisons run by the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), announced in July that it was terminating its multi-million dollar contract. The $289 million in funding will end in October as Centurion stops providing services.
The reason stated for the termination was the state’s refusal to properly fund prison facilities and staffing. Without such improvements, Centurion representatives say they cannot provide effective medical care.
According to a letter sent July 7 by Centurion Chief Executive officer Steven Wheeler to the MDOC, “We do not believe we can further improve the effectiveness of our level of care without additional investment from the Department in correctional staffing and infrastructure along the lines of what we have already recommended.”
The company was first brought in to handle MDOC healthcare under an emergency contract in 2015. Centurion serves correctional facilities in 17 states. According to Wheeler, in that time, Centurion has reduced the number of certain narcotics prescribed to inmates, as well as the number of trips to the emergency room. Face-to-face psychiatric programs were introduced.
Centurion’s announcement comes after Team ROC, part of Jay-Z’s philanthropy Roc Nation. The rapper Yo Gotti funded the hiring of attorneys to represent the 227 inmates living in squalid conditions at MDOC prisons.
Major Political Donor
Exactly why Centurion was given the contract is not surprising. Its parent company has been a major political donor in Mississippi. Governor Tate Reeves has received at least $215,000 for his campaigns from Centene.
The lead lawyer for Team ROC says she hopes Centurion’s ending of its relationship with the MDOC “sends a clear message” to Reeves. She says that message it is the state must invest in the health of its incarcerated population and improve the infrastructure.
Since late December 2019, before the coronavirus’ arrival, at least 53 inmates have died in Mississippi prisons. The reasons were often preventable. They included homicides, suicides, and what were termed “natural causes.” Severe understaffing, violence and crumbling facilities have affected virtually all of the state’s prisons.
One doctor hired by Team ROC said the conditions inside Parchman State Penitentiary were the worst he has ever seen. He mentioned seeing exposed electric wiring inside the prison, next to standing water. He called the condition there “subhuman and deplorable.”
Lack of Covid-19 Protection
The coronavirus has particularly devastated places where people live under tight conditions, such as prisons and nursing homes. Team ROC lawyers note the jails lack testing, and have not established social distancing protocols. There is also a lack of personal protective equipment (“PPE”) and sufficient medical attention.
Although Centurion is getting out of the prison healthcare business in Mississippi, it still faces a class-action lawsuit and negligence allegations. So does the MDOC. According to the lawsuit, inmates’ lives are “in peril” while serving time in MDOC facilities.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a prison or died because of inhumane or lack of medical care, we can help. We file federal civil rights lawsuits against prisons, jails, and private prison healthcare companies. You and your family may be entitled to financial compensation. CALL US 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn your rights. You can also visit our jail death and injury FAQ page to learn more.