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Corizon Health Services Breaks Second Death Settlement Record This Year

2015 has been a big year for Corizon Health Services: in the span of six months, the nation’s largest for-profit inmate healthcare provider has managed to break not one, but two different state records for the largest wrongful death settlement payouts in history.

On August 6, Corizon and Lane County in Oregon announced they would pay a combined $7 million to the family of Kelly Green — a 28-year-old mentally ill inmate who died from a major spinal injury after a psychotic episode at the local jail. Green broke his neck and became paralyzed after running headfirst into a concrete wall one day after he was arrested in February 2013.

County officials maintain Corizon misdiagnosed Green’s injury and failed to take him to the hospital for six hours. He became quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent for ten months before he passed.

Earlier this year, Corizon and Alameda County in California paid $8.3 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the children of Martin Harrison: a 49-year-old black man who was Tased and beaten by ten sheriff’s deputies at the Santa Rita Jail in 2010. Harrison had been arrested for jaywalking in Oakland when authorities realized he had a warrant for missing a court date after he got in drunk driving accident in which no one was injured.

The terms of Harrison’s settlement dictated that Corizon must implement changes to its staffing policies in jails across the state — particularly with regard to the licensing and training of nurses. In Harrison’s case, a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) was permitted to conduct and intake exam that should have indicated he would experience alcohol withdrawal, triggering protocols that would have allowed him to detox safely. The nurse instead placed Harrison in general population.

After two days, delirium tremens set in and Harrison began to hallucinate. He was placed in isolation for several hours until “a deputy entered Harrison’s cell, found him in a distressed state, shoved him to the back of the cell, Tased him twice, and called for backup, claiming that Harrison was attacking him.” Nine other deputies showed up and joined the melee until Harrison was unconscious. He died at the hospital two days later.

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Brian Sonenstein

Brian Sonenstein

Publishing Editor at Shadowproof and columnist at Prison Protest.