Criminal Justice

City runs ad seeking health care for inmates even though Sheriff has deal

Despite the Orleans Parish Sheriff signing a controversial $83 million inmate health-care contract earlier this year, the city of New Orleans late last month issued a new request for proposals for medical work at Orleans Parish Prison.

However, the call for bids disappeared from the city’s website Wednesday. City officials did not respond to The Lens’ questions, including whether they were still searching for a new contractor.

The ad appeared in The Times-Picayune today, and an online service for public notices indicates it also ran in late August and last week. It also appeared as recently as Wednesday morning as an open bid solicitation on the city’s website. However, it has since been removed.

The ad says the city is seeking inmate health-care services “for all prison facilities administered and managed by the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office,” instructing interested companies to submit a bid by Sept. 17. The Sheriff’s Office is already under an $83 million, five-year contract with Nashville, Tenn.-based Correct Care Solutions.

City officials have opposed that deal, saying it’s too expensive and criticizing Sheriff Marlin Gusman for his lack of transparency in procuring and negotiating the contract. The jail is under a federal consent decree requiring adequate inmate health care. In May, U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk ordered the city, which is responsible for funding the jail’s operations, to pay for the contract. In the order, Africk wrote that under state law, the city is responsible for providing health care at the jail and is therefore permitted to negotiate a new contract with a new provider.

The city has filed an appeal of Africk’s order, and in a brief filed in federal appeals court last month, lawyers representing the city wrote that Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration “is moving forward with obtaining a health care provider pursuant to the proper legal procedures and transparent government procurement practices.”

That sentence appears to explain the request for proposals.

It’s not clear whether the city has cancelled the search for a new contractor. Neither officials in the Mayor’s Office nor those with Correct Care Solutions returned requests for comment.

In a phone interview, Gusman spokesman Phil Stelly said he did not have enough information about the bid solicitation to immediately respond, but added that the Sheriff’s Office is continuing to work with Correct Care.

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