Earlier today I chatted with a former county jail inmate in Oregon. With his permission, we are sharing his story about the horrors of Corizon Correctional Healthcare. It is a story that needs to be told.
“Todd” is a senior citizen. Like millions of Americans, he found himself in a county lockup. In his case, a county jail in Oregon. He was locked up in 2012 for drunk driving. Unable to post bail, he was booked into the local jail. At the time of his incarceration he was awaiting trial and presumed innocent of all charges.
The fastest growing segment of our population are senior citizens. And as America ages, we find more seniors in jail. Frequently, as we age we develop more healthcare problems. And that raises the costs of incarceration. Offered as a way of “saving money,” many states, counties and cities are turning to private healthcare companies to take care of the medical needs of detainees.
Todd’s Arrest – The Clock Starts Ticking
Todd was arrested for drunk driving. As noted above he was booked and was unable to bond out. In the typical booking process, deputies or medical personnel ask a series of medical question. Those questions are asked so that jail staff understand any pre-existing medical conditions and medications that the person arrested may require. The process with Todd was no different. Todd told a Corizon* nurse that he suffered epileptic seizures. He also let them know that he required two different anti-seizure medications.
*Corizon Correctional Healthcare has had many names and has been through several mergers. At the time of Todd’s incarceration, he claims that jail’s healthcare was provided Corizon affiliates Prison Health Services Inc, PHS Correctional Healthcare and / or Corizon Health Inc. For ease of reference we simply use the name “Corizon” throughout this post.
Despite warning medical staff of his seizures, Todd never received his medications.
On his third day at the jail, he had a violent seizure.
Immediately prior to that seizure, Todd had requested medical help. He reported feeling nauseous and worried about his blood pressure. Despite his request to see a Corizon Healthcare nurse or physician, he was visited by a social worker. The social worker reported that Todd recently had a seizure and appeared “ill.”
After three days he still wasn’t treated for his medical conditions, wasn’t given his medications and wasn’t treated for alcohol withdrawals. Alcohol withdrawals are a serious and potentially life threatening condition.
None of this should have been any surprise to Corizon or the jail staff. Todd’s lawyer claimed that he had been to that county jail previously and was known by jail staff to have issues detoxing. Yet Corizon’s healthcare workers did nothing to help him or prevent the seizure.
By the time a healthcare worker came to see Todd he had suffered a violent seizure and was bleeding from his left ear. A deputy was holding his head. Todd doesn’t remember the seizure but jail records say that he was found on the floor and had struck his head at least once.
Todd was rushed by ambulance to a local hospital but the damage had been done. It was too late. The seizure caused him to fracture his skull and left him in a coma. For 16 days, Todd was hospitalized.
While in his coma, jail officials convinced a judge to release Todd from custody. The county hoped that by releasing him from custody, they wouldn’t have to pay his medical bills. Although the county and Corizon were responsible for Todd’s injuries, they didn’t want to pay the $167,000 hospital bill!
Todd was ultimately discharged from the hospital although now broke and with permanent injuries. Years later, he tells me that he has problems with his balance, sense of smell and taste. He is still in pain.
Not getting anyone to take responsibility for their actions, Todd ultimately filed suit against the county and Corizon.
Corizon filed an answer and said that despite knowing of his medical conditions, Todd was somehow responsible for his injuries and medical bills. They denied any wrongdoing.
The jail also claimed they were not at fault.
Ultimately the case resolved. We didn’t represent Todd and therefore don’t know all the details. We know it wasn’t enough. It never is.
Todd tells me that Corizon’s contract with the county was not renewed. He also says that the Corizon nurse who refused to listen to him or provide help was terminated.
In recent years, Corizon has lost a number of contracts. Unfortunately, the other companies that take over often are not much better. Jails get what they pay for and by seeking the cheapest healthcare, stories like Todd’s are likely to repeat.
Unfortunately, we hear cases like this constantly. Inmates who are denied life-saving medications. Counties that try to save a few bucks by seeking out the cheapest healthcare services vendor.
Corizon Correctional Healthcare – A Troubled Company
Todd’s story is unfortunately not unique. Corizon and its affiliates have been sued hundreds of times by inmates.
Corizon is a for profit company. It bills itself as the “foremost” private correctional healthcare company. But foremost at what? With contracts in more than half the states, Corizon is a billion dollar company. We worry that its profits, however, are derived from cutting corners with healthcare.
In 2015, the company paid over $8 million, along with a California county jail, to the family of a man who died after being beaten to death. Jailers and Corizon suggested the man’s injuries were resulted from behavioral issues. Medical testimony, however, revealed that like Todd, the inmate was suffering from alcohol withdrawals and not receiving proper treatment.
This lack of response to inmates in dire medical distress is typical of accusations made against Corizon in lawsuits.
Our hope is that by publishing these stories, state and county correctional officials will think twice before awarding a contract to a for-profit healthcare provider. We also hope that Corizon will clean up its act and properly staff facilities and provide the level of care the law and decency requires.
Until that happens, we and our partner firms stand ready to assist inmates suffering catastrophic injuries while in custody. We also help families who lost a loved one at the hands of police, correctional officers or prison healthcare providers.
Are you a Corizon victim? At Jail Death and Injury Law we can help. We have several ongoing investigations into Corizon’s medical neglect of inmates. Call US 866.836.4684 or Connect Online
[Ed. Note: We take confidentiality seriously. We are publishing Todd’s story with his explicit permission. Despite this permission, however, we have changed his name and not published the county where he was incarcerated.]