For the past two years, I have introduced and supported legislation to advance and promote the human rights of every District of Columbia resident. I understand that improvements to our various sectors cannot be achieved in a vacuum. Real change demands government accountability, transparency and openness.
To this end, I have been a fierce advocate for ethics reform, particularly as it relates to the Council’s role in voting on contracts over $1 million. I believe that this authority can be viewed as a vehicle for corruption, enabling lawmakers to exert undue influence over the contract procurement process, and I have voted “present” on all contracts to promote and encourage a commitment to good government. I have also engaged in oversight monitoring the performance of government contractors and the integrity of procurement processes through other avenues. However, there are times when circumstances arise that are too egregious to ignore, warranting immediate action.
After significant research, including a visit to the D.C. jail, meetings with advocates and a meeting with the CEO of Corizon, I determined that awarding the D.C. Jail contract for healthcare services to Corizon, would violate the human rights of D.C. residents who are incarcerated. The World Health Organization’s Constitution enshrines the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being. This right includes access to timely and quality healthcare. Unfortunately, Corizon has repeatedly failed to meet this standard.
The company, a Tennessee-based for profit, has a well-documented history of failing to provide necessary medical care, allowing extreme delays in medical services to persist, and operating substandard facilities. Over the past five years there have been over 1,000 lawsuits filed against Corizon for neglect and abuse. Additionally, Maine, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Minnesota have all ended their contracts with Corizon for poorly delivered healthcare services. Just recently, the New York City Council publicly challenged Corizon and questioned whether it was time to end the healthcare services contract, which Corizon holds at Rikers Island.
The examples of Corizon’s deplorable services are innumerable and while it may be argued that prison healthcare is in general need of reform, the District of Columbia cannot disregard the ample evidence of gross systemic deficiencies. Awarding this contract would be an absolute failure of government to protect the health and well-being of District of Columbia inmates. Even if the Council did not vote on contracts, I would work diligently to stop this one from going forward. The gravity of the circumstances have required me to take a strong stand.