D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray withdrew from the council’s Wednesday legislative agenda a controversial measure that would place a for-profit corporation in charge of health care at the D.C. Jail.
A spokeswoman for his office said the $66 million, three-year contract to Corizon Health Inc. was delayed and not dead, and that the administration hoped to see it come up for a vote next year after the company had more time to address the concerns of activists.
“We agreed to withdraw it to give Corizon more time to get the facts out,” said Mr. Gray’s spokeswoman Doxie McCoy. “They were getting unfairly smeared. It will likely be resubmitted next year.”
The District’s Office of Contracting and Procurement recommended awarding the contract to provide medical, mental health, pharmacy and dental services to inmates at the Department of Corrections to Corizon Health Inc. instead of renewing a current contract with nonprofit Unity Health Care Inc, which has overseen health care at the jail since 2006.
The ACLU of the Nation’s Capital and inmate advocates protested the award, pointing to a long list of lawsuits filed against Corizon as well as some of their own personal experiences representing inmates at other facilities who received poor treatment from Corizon.
The D.C. Council would have to vote in favor of the contract by January 22 in order for it to be approved. Without a vote, the contract would be considered denied.
Wednesday was the D.C. Council’s last legislative meeting of the year, and the final one that would occur under the administration of Mr. Gray. Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser will be sworn in on Jan. 2, but on Wednesday she offered little indication how she might side on the matter.
“This is an important issue in the District. We will give it the attention it deserves and review the contract and process in a timely manner,” Ms. Bowser’s spokesman Joaquin McPeek said.
The Gray administration maintains that the old contract with Unity was not a good choice for the city.
“We believe the current Unity contact is too expensive to continue due to the reduction in the corrections population,” Ms. McCoy said.
However, a copy of the council contract summary submitted to the D.C. Council states that Corizon’s bid to provide services for three years, with the ability to renew for two additional years, would cost 7 percent or $4.4 million more than the bid received by Unity Health Care, Inc.
“The prices proposed are within market reasonable for the direct labor staffing proposed, and the total proposed amount is within available budget for the Department of Corrections,” the summary reads. “The innovations proposed in their proposal plus the confidence in their ability to perform at the proposed price warrant award at the additional 7%.”
Jail spokeswoman Sylvia Lane declined to comment on the matter, referring questions to the city’s Office of Contracting and Procurement.
Corizon officials said the contract was being offered after a fair assessment process.
“We are confident that the significant misinformation being circulated regarding Corizon Health’s performance history and experience will not stand against the facts that support our competence and effectiveness in providing quality healthcare to inmates across the country,” a company statement issued Wednesday said. “We look forward to a vote that affirms the independent selection of Corizon Health to deliver quality correctional healthcare in the District.”