CCA: High Cost of Medical Care Cited in Decision to Turn it Back to the State

Apr. 30, 2010

CCA ended pact to run women’s prison in ’04
Pahrump Valley Times

While Corrections Corporation of America is close to opening an $80 million federal detention center in Pahrump, the company chose an early termination of their contract to operate the Southern Nevada Women’s Correctional Center in North Las Vegas in 2004 due to the high cost of medical care.

The Nevada Southern Detention Center in Pahrump, scheduled to begin accepting inmates in October, is a male-only facility. CCA was awarded a 20-year contract by the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee to build and operate the Pahrump facility, which is up for renewal every five years.

At a Jan. 28, 2004 meeting of the State Interim Finance Committee, the Nevada Department of Corrections considered taking over inmate medical care at the women’s prison from CCA March 1 that year. But talk then expanded to the state taking over the facility completely.

Senate Bill 278, approved by the 1995 Nevada Legislature, allocated $44 million to construct a new women’s correctional center in southern Nevada. CCA constructed a correctional facility for 550 inmates and began housing the female prisoners. The state purchased the land, buildings and equipment from CCA on Oct. 3, 2001, with an operating contract to remain in effect through June 30, 2015, according to minutes provided by the research division of the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

CCA was given a per diem rate of $40.03 per inmate, which was to increase by 3 percent per year. By 2004 that rate increased to $47.79. The contract provided for automatic renewals every three years, with a renewal scheduled Oct. 3, 2004.

CCA and the state DOC had been in discussions over the per diem rate and the provision of health care to the facility for three years.

Nevada DOC Medical Administrator Chuck Schardin reported CCA health care costs increased 21 percent from $2.4 million in 2002 to almost $3 million in 2003. Off-site expenses alone nearly doubled from $589,840 to $1.06 million.

The minutes show a dramatic reduction of inmates from projected numbers also caused difficulties. While the women’s correctional facility held 550 inmates at one time, there was a population of only 445 inmates in early 2003. In spring 2002, CCA alleged inmates from honor camps with medical problems were being dumped at the women’s prison.

In excerpts of the minutes from the Jan. 28, 2004, meeting, Tony Grande, CCA vice-president for state relations, said, “Continuing the contract would be exceedingly difficult if CCA was not able to remedy the costs related to medical services being provided at SNWCF.”

Dr. Ted D’Amico, medical director for the state DOC, is quoted in March 31, 2004, as saying: “CCA had struggled with the medical care of inmates from the start because of their inability to hire good administrators.”

The intake process at the correctional facility required assistance from the Nevada DOC during a year in which the medical director’s budget absorbed nearly $300,000 of medical care costs, D’Amico said.

CCA had problems providing timely dental care to inmates, who had to be incarcerated for six months before dental care was provided, D’Amico said. The company provided a half-time dentist, he said.

There were also concerns about psychotropic medications and HIV program standards.

John Tighe, CCA vice president of health services, was quoted as saying bluntly, “Operating an institution housing female inmates was not an easy task.”

CCA was committed to providing quality care at the women’s prison and had to fill in employment gaps, flying in staff from other areas using temporary and agency personnel, which wasn’t cost effective, Tighe said.

State Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, suggested the state assume operation of the entire facility, instead of just the medical care.

Following that discussion, CCA provided a notice of contract termination Feb. 23, 2004, effective Oct. 1, 2004.

D’Amico “commended CCA’s expertise and hard work during the length of their contract with the state.”

The facility, now under state management, is now known as the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center.