Alameda County: Auditor recommends restarting bid for jail health care contract

OAKLAND — Alameda County is poised to restart the process of selecting a company to provide health care services for its inmates.

In a letter issued Tuesday, County Auditor-Controller Steve Manning sided with an appeal by Corizon Health and asked the county to reject all bids for the lucrative and hotly contested contract.

Earlier this year, a six-person panel appointed by Alameda County officials recommended California Forensic Medical Group win the job of providing health care service at Santa Rita Jail, replacing Corizon Health.

Currently, Corizon provides health care for approximately 2,800 prisoners at the Dublin jail, but in recent years the company has come under scrutiny for inmate deaths and poor mental health treatment. The company, along with the county, settled a landmark lawsuit last year over an in-custody death, agreeing to pay $8.3 million and have only registered nurses — not licensed vocational nurses — conduct assessment screenings. Corizon also was sharply criticized by nurses working at the jail after it fired 49 licensed vocational nurses in January and 16 more in February.

California Forensic Medical Group, which offers health care for correctional facilities in 27 counties in California, has faced similar accusations. It is facing a class-action lawsuit in Monterey County over medical and mental health care, and has been sued by inmates across California for substandard care.

The three-year contract is estimated to be worth at least $90 million.

Manning’s letter came in response to an appeal of the panel’s recommendation filed in May by Corizon. A review of the bidding process by Manning’s office found flaws in cost proposals and the omission of a preference for hiring local companies.

Though the bidding war process may not have hurt Corizon’s chances, Manning requested that the county reject all the bids for the jail contract.

“In appealing this flawed process, we were simply asking county officials to take their time and get it right,” Corizon Health spokeswoman Martha Harbin said in a statement. “By ruling in our favor, they are showing their commitment to do just that.”

Kip Hallman, CEO of Correctional Medical Group Companies, did not return a call for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

In May, the county refused to name the members of the six-person panel that recommended Hallman’s firm.

David DeBolt covers Oakland. Contact him at 510-208-6453. Follow him atTwitter.com/daviddebolt.