On September 16, 2015, the Florida Justice Institute (FJI) filed a class action lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) and its private medical contractor Corizon, LLC for failing to provide necessary hernia surgeries, resulting in possibly hundreds of incarcerated people being left in severe pain, unable to engage in normal activities, and at risk for serious complications such as bowel obstruction, infection, and even death. The case is brought on behalf of three prisoners—Tracy Copeland, Amado Parra, and Archie Green—and seeks to certify a class of all FDOC prisoners with painful hernias that have gone untreated. The lawsuit alleges that both the FDOC and Corizon have a policy, practice, and custom of not providing hernia surgeries, except in emergency circumstances, for the purpose of saving costs and increasing profits. The lawsuit seeks an immediate injunction ending the policy, as well as monetary damages to compensate the plaintiffs and potential class members for the pain and suffering they have endured.
“As even the FDOC has recognized recently when it fined Corizon, both FDOC and its contractor have defaulted on their responsibilities to provide adequate medical care to incarcerated people in Florida,” said Randall C. Berg, Jr., FJI’s Executive Director. “FDOC has a nondelagble duty to provide medical care. This case illustrates just one facet of the Department’s and Corizon’s failure.”
The complaint recounts the stories of several prisoners who have complained of excruciating hernia pain and debilitation for years, yet have not received the simple surgeries that will alleviate their symptoms. In many cases, doctors have recommended surgery, but the FDOC and Corizon have refused to provide it. In other cases, prisoners have not even been permitted to be examined by a surgeon to determine if surgery is warranted.
“The FDOC’s transition to privatized health care has been a failure,” said Dante P. Trevisani, an FJI attorney. “The Constitution requires sufficient medical care so that incarcerated people are not left suffering in pain for years on end. The care for hernias has not met that standard.”
Corizon has a financial incentive to avoid providing medical care, particularly when that care involves outside specialists. Under Corizon’s contract with the FDOC, Corizon is paid a fixed per-prisoner rate. All medical costs are then paid directly by Corizon, including a $250 transport fee for trips over 50 miles.
Berg added, “If Corizon is going to take taxpayer money, it must actually provide the level of care required by the Constitution and the contract, rather than withhold care for its own financial gain. The taxpayers of Florida deserve better.”
The case is Copeland v. Jones, Case No. 4:15-cv-00452-RH-CAS, and has been assigned to Judge Robert H. Hinkle in the N.D. of Florida.