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Company picked for Alabama prison care sued in Mississippi

A company selected to provide health care for Alabama's prison system is being sued by the state of Mississippi for its alleged role in a long-running bribery scheme.

Posted: Dec 15, 2017 2:29 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A company selected to provide health care for Alabama's prison system is being sued by the state of Mississippi for its alleged role in a long-running bribery scheme.

The Alabama Department of Corrections said it picked the Pennsylvania-based Wexford Health Sources Inc. to provide medical care in state prisons, and contract negotiations should be complete by February. Commissioner Jeff Dunn said the company, one of four to submit proposals, was picked "based on a combination of quality of care and overall cost."

But Wexford is among a dozen companies sued by the state of Mississippi in February for allegedly using consultants to pay bribes and kickbacks to then-Mississippi prison commissioner Chris Epps, who sentenced to almost 20 years in prison in May in a bribery scheme.

The Alabama Department of Corrections said it was aware of the allegations in the lawsuit and is sticking by the selection of the company.

"Wexford Health has not been accused of any wronging and the department is confident the review committee selected the right company for the health care contract," said a statement by prison spokesman Bob Horton.

In a statement from marketing director Wendelyn Pekich, the Pittsburgh-based Wexford said it didn't know anything about Epps' crimes or the actions of a one-time consultant it hired in Mississippi. The company said it didn't do anything wrong and was "ensnared" in the state's lawsuit only because it had employed a consultant mentioned in the criminal investigation.

"We were never accused of doing anything wrong or inappropriate," said the company, which provides prison medical care in more than a dozen states, Alabama prison officials said.

Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, told the Decatur Daily he heard about the Mississippi lawsuit recently, and that large companies operating in multiple states often are sued. The three other companies competing for the contract "also had knocks against them," said Ward, who chairs a prison oversight committee.

Questions about Wexford "will be on top of the agenda when we meet next month," Ward said. He said he was encouraging Alabama prison officials to "move slowly" because of the massive size of the contract.

The Mississippi lawsuits allege major prison contractors paid millions of dollars in fees to consultants who, in turn, used the money to pay off Epps. Because of the bribes, Epps awarded about $800 million in contracts to the companies, the state alleged.

Epps acknowledged accepting more than $1.4 million in bribes from private contractors, and eight other people have been convicted in the scheme.

The new, three-year health care contract for 28 Alabama prisons will take effect April 1. A previous two-year contract with another company was worth $180 million.

The new contract is supposed to increase staffing in correctional facilities by about 25 percent for both medical and mental health care services, the state said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16560

Reported Deaths: 794
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds107426
Madison76728
Lauderdale75968
Neshoba72844
Jones70133
Scott66312
Forrest59539
DeSoto57510
Rankin4569
Leake45212
Holmes44330
Copiah3294
Jackson31415
Attala31118
Yazoo2964
Newton2884
Lincoln28031
Leflore27736
Oktibbeha27314
Harrison2697
Monroe26925
Wayne2623
Lamar2505
Lowndes2479
Pearl River21231
Pike20411
Adams20316
Washington1987
Warren19610
Lee1948
Noxubee1936
Covington1792
Bolivar16911
Jasper1674
Clarke15619
Smith15511
Kemper15511
Lafayette1544
Chickasaw14014
Coahoma1314
Clay1254
Winston1241
Carroll11911
Marion1169
Claiborne1155
Lawrence1071
Grenada1074
Simpson1040
Yalobusha1046
Sunflower923
Tate911
Hancock9012
Union897
Itawamba897
Marshall873
Wilkinson859
Panola843
Montgomery841
Webster844
Jefferson Davis823
Tippah7611
Calhoun674
Amite661
Walthall640
Humphreys637
Tunica583
Prentiss533
Perry513
Choctaw502
Pontotoc473
Jefferson421
Tishomingo360
Greene331
Stone320
Quitman320
Tallahatchie301
George292
Franklin292
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19073

Reported Deaths: 672
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2321118
Jefferson1901104
Montgomery185843
Tuscaloosa83616
Marshall7089
Franklin5858
Lee56234
Shelby52819
Tallapoosa43466
Butler42118
Walker3862
Elmore3749
Chambers36026
Madison3534
Unassigned3062
Morgan3021
Baldwin2939
Dallas2923
Lowndes26512
Etowah26312
DeKalb2573
Autauga2415
Coffee2391
Sumter2287
Houston2265
Bullock2176
Pike2120
Colbert1902
Hale1859
Russell1810
Barbour1771
Marengo1756
Lauderdale1722
Calhoun1673
Wilcox1577
Choctaw15310
Cullman1521
Clarke1492
St. Clair1351
Randolph1287
Dale1240
Marion12411
Pickens1205
Talladega1195
Limestone1080
Chilton1071
Greene954
Macon934
Winston910
Jackson833
Covington821
Henry822
Crenshaw783
Bibb761
Escambia753
Washington736
Blount631
Lawrence510
Monroe462
Geneva440
Perry430
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar280
Fayette160
Cleburne151
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