On January 21st, the ACLU of Maine, the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, the Maine Council of Churches and the Portland Branch of the NAACP submitted a letter to the Maine Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee requesting an OPEGA (Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability) Review of health care in Maine state correctional facilities. Read the press release here.

As we have seen time and again, privatizing our prisons, jails and corrections services becomes an inevitable race to the bottom, whereby pursuit of profit supersedes all other correctional priorities - jeopardizing the health, safety and well-being of our prisoners, corrections employees and our communities. While in Maine we have successfully fought the building of private prisons, we continue to see the negative impacts of privatized services within our prisons.  In 2011 OPEGA undertook a review of health care services in Maine state correctional facilities and found numerous issues with the quality of care offered by then-provider Corizon. To read more about Corizon and the ACLU’s work to end prison profiteering click here. Following the release of the 2011 OPEGA report, the Maine Department of Corrections terminated their contract with Corizon.

In 2012 MDOC contracted with Correct Care Solutions (CCS) – another for-profit health care company. While some of the issues identified in the 2011 report appear to have been resolved, others have not. Advocacy organizations continue to receive a high volume of inmate correspondence related to serious, unresolved medical issues many of which were not identified in the 2011 OPEGA review. Problems related to care are particularly acute among the elderly and aging portion of the population, whose specialized health and medical needs are increasingly going unmet. To read our letter to the Government Oversight Committee, categorized issues and accompanying data click here.

Given the broad scope of problems identified by advocacy groups – ranging from basic standard of care to contractor compliance, from new to already identified issues – we strongly encourage the Government Oversight Committee to undertake a new review of health care services in Maine state correctional facilities.  It should be noted that CCS has also just been awarded the contract for the mental health unit of the Maine State Prison, that will shortly begin taking patients formerly under the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. To read more about the ACLU of Maine’s work to oppose LD 1515 click here.

The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees prisoners a right to medical care and protects them against deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs.  As incarcerated citizens have limited agency, voice and capacity for redress, it is of the utmost importance that there is public oversight of their care – particularly when health care is coupled with profits – to ensure that consideration of the bottom line does not supersede constitutional rights.