ACLU and PJC Urge Maryland Board to Reject Contract with Company Known for Providing Deficient Medical Care in Prisons

Affiliate: ACLU of Maryland
June 1, 2005 12:00 am

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ACLU of Maryland
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ANNAPOLIS, MD — Citing Correctional Medical Services’ poor record for dispensing medical care to prisoners, the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Justice Center today urged Maryland’s Board of Public Works to reject a proposed contract with the for-profit company.

“Correctional Medical Services’ history of cutting corners to maintain profits jeopardizes the lives of thousands of incarcerated people across the country,” said Elizabeth Alexander, Director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “Many states have already learned a painful lesson from their dealings with Correctional Medical Services. Maryland must avoid handing over the care of its prisoners and jail detainees to a company with a disastrous reputation.”

Correctional Medical Services (CMS) currently holds contracts in 27 states. In Michigan, where the company provides care to prisoners statewide, CMS has come under heavy scrutiny for its attempts to save money by limiting prisoners’ referrals to outside medical specialists. A federal court found that excessive delays in providing prisoners with referrals contributed to three deaths during an 18-month period. Five other prisoners who died during the same time period also experienced significant delays in treatment.

Last week, the Maryland Board of Public Works announced that at a meeting today it will review for approval a two-year statewide medical services contract between the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and CMS. The new contract is scheduled to begin July 1, 2005.

Under the new contract, CMS would provide care to more than 4,000 detainees confined at the Baltimore City Detention Center, which has come under fire in recent years for providing deficient medical care. In August 2002, the U.S. Department of Justice cited the jail for 107 violations of health and safety standards. Since 2002, the ACLU and Public Justice Center have been involved in litigation about the medical care provided at the Baltimore Jail by the current for-profit medical and mental health care provider, Prison Health Services.

Even with the significant rise in spending for the new contract, according to the state’s estimates, health services are still under funded by several million dollars. The ACLU and Public Justice Center expressed concern that simply switching for-profit providers without increasing resources to fund treatment and maintaining close contract oversight will leave detainees with the same poor care they received under Prison Health Services.

“There is little point in changing company names if the continuation of inadequate funding and indifference from the state regarding detainee health remains the same,” said Sally Dworak-Fisher, an attorney with the Public Justice Center. “In an environment without consistent outside oversight and inspection, the motivations of for-profit companies like CMS and Prison Health Services become dangerous. Cutting corners to preserve profits but risk the health and lives of detainees is inexcusable, and Maryland officials are responsible when the care is constitutionally inadequate.”

Today’s hearing before Maryland’s Board of Public Works will be held at 10:00 AM in the Governor’s Reception Room, 2nd floor of the Annapolis State House.

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