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Multi-Million Corrections Contract Awarded to Company Employing Correction Commissioner’s Wife

Two companies are battling for a $200 million-plus contract to provide health care to Tennessee’s prison inmates, reports The Tennessean, and one of them employs the state correction commissioner’s wife.
One came in almost $16 million cheaper and has a long but controversial history of providing those services. The second, more expensive company has struggled to explain how it has enough experience to do the job. It also happens to employ the wife of the head of the Tennessee Department of Correction.
The second company, called Centurion, won.
Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield’s wife, Latrese, works for the company as an inmate re-entry coordinator in Georgia. But that fact was never disclosed in Centurion’s bid, nor was it mentioned at a protest hearing by the losing bidder last week, whose executives were confused about losing out on a job they had already been doing for more than two years.
Only two companies submitted bids, Centurion and Corizon. Corizon’s bid came in at about $226 million while Centurion came in at about $241 million.
The Department of Correction maintains that there is no conflict and that Derrick Schofield recused himself from having any say in the awarding of the contract.
“We’re confident that the process was appropriate and fair and resulted in the selection of the best-qualified bidder,” said TDOC spokeswoman Dorinda Carter. “Ms. Schofield is not in a position of making decisions regarding the contract and she’s not an executive-level employee.”
Derrick Schofield has disclosed his wife’s employment on ethics disclosures for the past three years. He declined to respond for this story through the agency spokeswoman.
…The losing bidder, Brentwood-based Corizon, had held the $219 million contract since 2010, handling health care services for the state’s prison inmates. The company handles mental health care for Tennessee inmates as well.
But Corizon in recent years has been dogged by accusations of poor inmate health care, particularly after a Kentucky inmate died while under the company’s care….In Tennessee, Corizon also was docked millions in penalties over the past few years for at times not meeting all the standards of the contract.
Even still, the state’s Fiscal Review Committee in November voted to extend its contract an additional six months.
By that time, the state had already put out a request for proposals a new contract that would run through 2015.
Corizon is protesting the contract award, arguing that Centurion doesn’t have the five years of experience the state required in its request for proposals.
Centurion, a company that was formed just last year, is made up of two other companies, Virginia-based MHM Services Inc. and St. Louis-based Centene Corp. While MHM has handled inmate health care services for years, the closest it comes to handling an entire prison system of Tennessee’s size was handling health care services for Florida’s prison system. But it held that contract for only three years.
Despite that possible problem, TDOC evaluators gave Centurion perfect marks when evaluating how it meets the contract’s experience requirements.
Latrese Schofield has been employed by MHM since 2005.