Virginia Department of Corrections announces plans to de-privatize prison health care

A picture of the assisted living ward at Deerfield Correctional Center that the Virginia...
A picture of the assisted living ward at Deerfield Correctional Center that the Virginia Department of Corrections shared with lawmakers in 2019. The prison, which houses some of the state's most medically fragile inmates, has seen a major COVID-19 outbreak.(Virginia Department of Corrections)
Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 9:15 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

After struggling for decades with rising health care costs and complaints about shoddy medical care, the Virginia Department of Corrections plans to end its contract with the private medical provider that serves about half of the state’s prisons.

In a letter earlier this month to department staff, Director Harold Clarke wrote that he planned to bring all health care services in-house.

“I believe working together, we can ensure we provide appropriate care to our inmate population in a manner that is both effective and fiscally responsible,” Clarke wrote.

The state hired Miami-based Armor Correctional Health to provide health care services in 2014 after a prior contractor backed out of its agreement with the state when it realized it had severely underestimated the cost of providing services.

The contract began at $84 million a year, rising to about $90 million in the last fiscal year, according to department spokeswoman Lisa Kinney.

The state already directly manages health care in facilities where it doesn’t rely on Armor. Officials took their first step away from the company in 2018 after settling a lawsuit that alleged poor medical care at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, where care had been overseen by the company.

The state has since installed a doctor from the University of Virginia as health director and, while the department is far from meeting the terms of the settlement, court-appointed monitors reported the state has made progress toward improving care.

The same year, Armor faced penalties for failing to meet its contractual obligations at three facilities, Sussex I and II and Greensville, prompting the state to fine the company a quarter-million dollars.

The Department of Corrections is the state’s largest agency and controlling rising health care costs has been a focus for lawmakers.


The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

Send it to 12 here.

Want NBC12’s top stories in your inbox each morning? Subscribe here.