A group of nurses is hoping the Metro Council will reject at today’s meeting a plan by Mayor Kip Holden to privatize management of East Baton Rouge Parish Prison’s medical services. They argue the plan would be costly and ineffective, and would put current nurses and technicians out of work or reduce their benefits. Holden is asking the council for authorization to sign a one-year, $5.2 million contract with CorrectHealth, a Georgia-based private health care company that manages medical care for 37 jails and prisons in the Southeastern U.S., including in seven Louisiana parishes. The nurses plan to attend today’s council meeting to make their case. … Of the city-parish’s 30 prison medical workers, nine have worked at the prison for a decade or more. The nurses say the deal will end up costing taxpayers. They also worry CorrectHealth will have the ability to fire them, and they say the benefits and retirement packages offered by the company are not as good as those provided by the city-parish. The nurses also cite reports of poor employee ratings for CorrectHealth, as well as reports that Southern Center for Human Rights—a nonprofit advocacy and criminal justice law firm that represents death penalty clients—challenged CorrectHealth’s importing of the lethal injection drug sodium thiopental. Holden’s administration, however, says contracting with CorrectHealth will actually save a little money. The city-parish is expected to pay $5.4 million this year for prison health care costs, which is $500,000 over budget. The administration also says privatization is needed because the city-parish is ill-equipped to manage health care at the prison, especially after one doctor quit in October. …
Prison privatization might save Baton Rouge money, but is there a higher cost?
Source: Diana Samuels, Times-Picayune, January 31, 2015
A distinctly awkward silence filled the Baton Rouge Metro Council chambers earlier this month when council member Joel Boe asked how much the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison pays to house its inmates. It might have been the moment when Mayor Kip Holden’s public safety tax plan truly died. …. Several council members say that having an outside, private company build and operate the parish prison is something the city should at least look into, particularly in light of how much money it could save. But the privatization of prisons is controversial: While communities typically want to see fewer citizens imprisoned, the business model of a private prison relies on keeping people locked up. And in East Baton Rouge, where the sheriff has the ultimate say on how the prison is operated, it could be a tough political challenge for the city-parish and sheriff to make a change that drastic and relinquish control over the facility.