War of Words: Corizon Health and Sheriff Wilcher attempt to set the record straight

War of Words: Corizon Health and Sheriff Wilcher attempt to set the record straight

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Last week, we were the first to tell you that the Chatham County sheriff was moving to end the Detention Center's contract with Corizon Health, and sign on a brand new inmate healthcare provider.

On the day before the Chatham County Commission voted to approve the sheriff's choice for a new healthcare company, Corizon Health sent a scathing letter to both the sheriff and the Chatham County Attorney.  In it Corizon not only stated it wanted out "as soon as possible", but pointed out what it considered the hypocrisy of the counties treatment of the company in the months leading up to this week.

You can read that letter below:

Through a Georgia Public Information request, I got a copy of that letter. Chatham County Sheriff John WIlcher agreed to speak to us on camera about the accusations Monday.  However, at the last minute, he changed his mind.

You can read that letter below:

Choosing instead to forward the letter he sent to the Chatham County Attorney on Monday.  The medical profession is no doubt one that attracts more lawsuits and complaints than most others, and Corizon Health is no exception.

In the last few weeks, two new claims have been level at the company by former Chatham County jail inmates. Corizon says it has always understood and dealt with that risk.

What it claims never to have dealt with before, is a relationship like it's had with Chatham County.

In last week's letter to the Chatham County Attorney, Corizon's own chief legal council, Scott King, said that relationship "…involves a level of hostility against Corizon by members of the Sheriff's Office that is unprecedented in our 35-year history as a partner with law enforcement."

The letter also referenced the death of Mathew Ajibade. A case that saw Corizon employees cleared of any wrongdoing despite, according to the letter, "…a concerted effort by some in the Sheriff's Office and the County to make Corizon a scapegoat for their deputies' involvement in an unfortunate in-custody death."

This new contract will cost taxpayers an extra $1.5 million a year. But, there are a number of things the sheriff will be getting in the new contract that Corizon's did not have including a lieutenant assigned to the watch over the medical unit, and a business model that does not have a company pulling expenses and profits from the same pot of money.

Corizon insists it requested both over the last few years, but it was the county that insisted it stick to the existing contract terms.

Corizon's letter also questions the sheriff's sincerity since his election, since he "…has refused to visit the jail medical unit or meet with Corizon clinical leaders.  Yet he publicly condemns the care provided by Corizon…" despite the fact that he, "…did not express any complaints with the level of service provided by Corizon…" in his role as jail administrator.

Sheriff Wilcher did not want to speak on camera but forwarded the letter he just sent to the Chatham County Attorney in response to Corizon's accusations.  In it he says contrary to Mr. King's assertion, "… on an almost daily basis I have visited the medical unit and all areas of the Detention Center."

Furthermore, that the sheriff has been advised that, "…all meetings with Corizon should be set up through the County Attorney's office as matters involving Corizon were under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation."
At the Chatham County Commission meeting where that new inmate healthcare provider was approved, a company called, CorrectHealth, the Sheriff made this statement about what those in the jail deserve.

"They are human beings and they need to be treated like human beings," Sheriff Wilcher said.  "And as soon as the county commissioners approve this contract and I get a copy of it and I get it to my attorneys then we will discuss it and more than likely approve it and have a new contract provider for us here."

Corizon was quick to point out to me that if the sheriff was so concerned with how its employees were not treating inmates like human being, why are most of Corizon's employees being asked by CorrectHealth to come on board with them?

Once again, after 18 years as the jail's healthcare provider, Corizon representative tell me they can't wait to end their relationship with Chatham County.  What they were clearly not willing to do, is leave without setting the record straight.

This letter was intended to do just that.

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