By Rand. W Gould, October 2021
Reprinted with permission from San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper
In early March 2020, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) declared a so-called “medical quarantine” for influenza, i.e., the flu, that quickly morphed into the COVID-19 “quarantine” still in effect to this day. Just as quickly, MDOC health care provider Corizon Health, Inc., took full advantage of this quarantine to deny prisoners constitutionally mandated health care across the board, including dental, optical, hepatitis B and other vaccines, with all previously scheduled 2020 medical consults and surgeries canceled.
Accordingly, health care requests were answered with such stock phrases as “no treatment until we return to normal operations” or “you are on the waiting list,” with many of us on this “list” for two years or longer. Shockingly, this is true for almost all medical issues requiring urgent, and even emergent, health care for over 17 months and counting, as confirmed by the Petitions for Health Care recently signed by prisoners at Central Michigan Correctional Facility (CMCF). The MDOC’s so-called COVID-19 “quarantine” at CMCF, and likely at all its prisons, at no time was in compliance with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and protocols for controlling COVID-19 in correctional settings, as mandated by PD 03, 04, 110, the MDOC policy directive for “Control of Communicable Diseases.” This constitutes willful neglect to perform a public duty in violation of MCL 750-478, a misdemeanor carrying a sentence of up to one year, and malfeasance in violation of MCL 750.505, a felony carrying up to five years.
There was no isolation of infected and close-contact prisoners and, immediately following the identification of COVID-19 infected prisoners at CMCF, over 500 prisoners were moved from the east side of the prison to the west, and vice versa, due to programming. To this day, there is no way to practice 6-foot social distancing, with men sleeping within inches of each other—eight men crammed into a four-man cubicle.
Moreover, the lack of a legitimate medical quarantine explains why CMCF had a nearly 100 percent COVID-19 infection rate in November-December 2020, the highest in the country, as previously reported by this writer. [See “Gov.
Whitmer hosts COVID-19 super-spreader events in Michigan,” San Francisco Bay View, January 2021, pages 3 and 16.]
Corizon is one of the largest, if not the largest, prison health care corporations in the country and is paid hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year to provide health care to prisoners. The MDOC’s gross appropriation for health care for FY 2021 was $310,399,380. Corizon is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Valitas Health Services, Inc., a privately held corporation owned by Blue Mountain investment group, a hedge fund, and Beecken, Petty, O’Keafe & Co., a Chicago-based private equity management firm.
Its sole purpose is to fatten its owners’ bottom line by not providing health care at every opportunity, which is known within Corizon as “the Corizon Way.” The MDOC’s COVID-19 “quarantine” was one hella-opportunity to deny health care to prisoners, resulting in Corizon’s investors raking in a huge financial windfall for the past 17 months. State taxpayers and prisoners’ health be damned!
The Power of Hundreds of Prisoners’ Signatures
The willingness of these men to sign these petitions comes at a risk for themselves, as nearly every one of them is five years or less from possible parole—their ERD or Earliest Release Date—and MDOC can be vindictive. The men on Petition No. 1, which was lost or confiscated and replaced with No. 19, are the ones who helped push this endeavor to fruition. And every group on the compound participated to some extent.
Health care in Michigan prisons is abominable. I went almost six years to get hernia surgery, and I haven’t seen a dentist in over two years. The last column on each petition, headed “Health Care Denied,” gives the signers a place to specify their complaints.
Public outcry over Corizon’s medical abuse and neglect, generated by this story, could drive Corizon out of Michigan.