Kevin Strickland, who was freed after suffering Missouri’s longest known wrongful conviction, in a lawsuit on Tuesday alleged that Corizon Health, the state’s former prison medical provider, neglected serious medical needs that contributed to his reliance on a wheelchair.

Strickland’s federal lawsuit is the latest filed against Corizon, which until recently was contracted to provide comprehensive care to incarcerated people in the Missouri Department of Corrections. The company has been the subject of hundreds of lawsuits in Missouri and Kansas, where its statewide prison care contracts expired in 2021 and 2020 respectively.

Strickland, 62, suffers from back problems stemming from spinal stenosis and neurologic deficits that make standing for long periods of time difficult. Lawyers for Strickland contend Corizon’s policies caused Strickland to “suffer substantial loss of mobility and pain” in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

“He sustained, and continues to sustain, mental and emotional pain, anguish and anxiety knowing that his physical ailment has not been treated, continues to deteriorate, and may result in a permanent loss of bodily function,” his lawyers wrote.

A spokesman for Corizon did not reply to The Star’s request for comment on Tuesday.

History in Missouri, Kansas

Like most states in the U.S., Kansas and Missouri offer prison health care services through private providers. Corizon, a Tennessee company founded in 1978, has described itself as the largest for-profit prison health care provider in the country.

Corizon began providing its services to prisons across Missouri in 1992, when the state first privatized its prison health care system. In Kansas, the company had the exclusive right to provide health care to prisoners beginning in October 2013.

Prisoners have long complained of substandard care in facilities run by Corizon. Over the years, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed alleging negligence by incarcerated people in Kansas and Missouri alone.

For example, one lawsuit came from the family of Marques Davids, who had complained of headaches and muscle weakness in the Kansas prison where he was incarcerated. Davids died of an untreated fungal infection of the brain.

A Star investigation in 2019 reviewed Corizon’s track record in Kansas prisons. In an analysis of performance documents from July 2015 through December 2018, The Star found that prisoners regularly complained of ailments without being allowed to see a doctor, nearly 20% of its 10,000 prisoners were taking psychotropic medications and several prisons reported no hours worked by psychiatrists.

Kansas had levied roughly $7.4 million in penalties against Corizon.

Lamonte McIntyre, who spent 23 years in Kansas prisons for a double murder he did not commit, previously told The Star he received poor health care while incarcerated. He developed a knotty growth on the top of his foot that became so painful he had to order a larger shoe.

“You keep going back and they don’t believe your ailment,” McIntyre had said. “They think everybody is trying to con.”

States cut ties

Both Kansas and Missouri severed ties with Corizon in the wake of criticisms about the quality of care provided.

In April 2020, the Kansas Department of Corrections announced a shift toward Centurion Health, another provider of prison health care. Under the terms of the contract, Centurion is paid $86.5 million for its first year of service through a deal that could stretch into 2026.

Missouri’s partnership with Corizon ended in November. It came after a successful bid by competitor Centurion to take over the services in exchange for $1.4 billion over a seven-year period.

This story was originally published January 18, 2022 9:24 PM.

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Bill Lukitsch covers breaking news for The Star. Before joining The Star, he covered politics and local government for the Quad-City Times.

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