2 Investigates: Alameda Co. recommends switch in jail healthcare contractors

Alameda County may be one step closer to changing its jail healthcare provider, and that isn’t sitting well with the embattled company that’s held the lucrative contract for years.

Corizon Correction Health is one of four companies in the running for the open jail healthcare contract, which it has held for the last nine years and expires at the end of June. But ahead of announcing a winner of the current bid, the county officially recommended a competitor, Correctional Medical Group Companies (CMGC), based in Monterey.

Corizon pushed back Friday saying that changing healthcare providers would disrupt patient care and cost taxpayer dollars.

"We've been here 30 years. We know what it takes to run this contract," said Dr. Harold Orr, Corizon's Clinical Director. "A company that comes in that doesn't know that nuances of this county has got to learn many things about to obtain services in this county. That can be expensive."

A Corizon press release also called into question CMGC’s track record, saying the company has a “checkered past,” referring to reports of lawsuits and inmate deaths under its care in other regions.

2 Investigates has been looking into Corizon’s performance since the death of inmate Mario Martinez last July. Corizon has similarly faced a string of lawsuits and settlements across the country totaling tens of millions of dollars. The company has also lost contracts in at least five states, been the focus of various state investigations, and the target of complaints nationwide in the last several years. In February, Martinez’s mother, Tanti, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Alameda County, Sheriff Greg Ahern, and Corizon for the death of her son at Santa Rita Jail.

Martinez suffered an asthma attack in his cell, collapsed, and died in a common area two days before his thirtieth birthday. Martinez’s mother has told KTVU that she wants to see changes to the county’s bidding process, reform at its jails, and the cancelation of Corizon’s contract.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors is expected to consider and vote on the contract award at its meeting on June 7.