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Quick and Dirty

Unhealthy Contract?

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 3/9/2005

A consultant hired by the state of Maryland to write the parameters for a new prison health-care contract is a co-founder of Prison Health Services Inc., the Brentwood, Tenn.-based company that has the contract now. Jacqueline Moore, of Jacqueline Moore and Associates, co-founded Prison Health Services in 1978 with her then-husband.

Prison Health was the nation’s first for-profit prison health-care company and is still a market leader. But the company has drawn controversy amid claims of substandard health care that may have led to inmate deaths. The New York Times published a critical three-part investigative series on the company in late February and early March. Last fall Prison Health Services disciplined three nurses in Maryland amid a state investigation into the death of a female inmate.

Prison Health Services has held the Maryland prison contract since 2000 and is paid about $53 million annually to care for the 24,000 inmates. The company says it’s losing about $1 million per month on the contract. The company and other observers estimate the new contract will total about $100 million annually.

Moore’s company was hired in September to help write the request for proposal—a set of specifications that prison health companies can use to guide their bids for the contract. Critics say Moore has a conflict, even though she says she has not been associated with Prison Health Services since 1990, and her ex-husband has since founded at least two other prison health-care providers.

“We have no contact at all,” Moore says of her ex-husband. She says she has no say in who will get the new contract.

Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, says the state has received bids for the new RFP. “We really want to upgrade the medical services at pretrial,” he says.

The new bid specifications include a cost-sharing arrangement between the vendor and the state, Moore says: “In the past, RFPs had a lot of fines, and there was a lot of risk associated for the vendors. They were trying to do something different in this RFP.”

The state legislature was expected to take up the matter in budget hearings on March 9.

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