The Bulletin

Virginia moves to immediately sever ties with prison health care contractor. ‘The relationship has degraded significantly.’

By: - October 13, 2021 3:01 pm

A picture of the assisted living ward at Deerfield Correctional Center that the Virginia Department of Corrections shared with lawmakers in 2019. The prison, which houses some of the state’s most medically fragile inmates, has seen a major COVID-19 outbreak. (Virginia Department of Corrections)

The Virginia Department of Corrections appears headed toward a messy breakup with the company that provides medical care in about half of the state’s prisons.

DOC director Harold Clarke announced in July he intended to bring all health care services in-house, ending its $90-million annual contract with Miami-based Armor Correctional Health.

But rather than let the current contract run its course for the next year as initially planned, prison officials now say they’re taking immediate steps to end the state’s relationship with Armor, accusing the company of stonewalling corrections officials since the announcement.

“The relationship and correspondence with the vendor has degraded significantly,” Clarke wrote in a letter to House and Senate budget leaders. “The lack of communication and the activities of the vendor significantly jeopardize the ability of the department to ensure constitutionally adequate medical care is being provided as contractually required by the vendor and is unsustainable for any amount of time.”

Armor’s CEO, Otto Campo, fired back in a statement, calling DOC’s decision reckless.

“This decision is consistent with a well-documented pattern of mismanagement at the Virginia Department of Corrections,” he said. “It is a reckless move by VADOC that does not have legislative support and will have serious negative financial consequences for the taxpayers of the commonwealth.”

Clarke said the department had “no choice but to terminate the current agreement with Armor Correctional Healthcare.” He wrote that DOC is exercising its right to terminate its contract with Armor with 60-days’ notice. He wrote that an unnamed provider had agreed to take over Armor’s contract under the existing terms until DOC is prepared to fully de-privatize prison medical care.

The letter represents a significant change in tenor from July, when Clarke complimented Armor in a memo to staff members announcing the decision, calling it a “long and productive partnership.”

Health care in a state prisons have been a persistent point of concern in recent years, prompting long-running federal lawsuits and legislative handwringing over ballooning costs.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.