Pew Report Examines Jail RFPs

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Posted Jan 24, 2018

Many county jail use contracted services to provide health care to inmates, but are their requests for proposals adequate? The Pew Charitable Trusts, assisted by Community Oriented Correctional Health Services, conducted a study to examine this and related questions to help counties make informed choices about how to fulfill jails’ role in the health care safety net, achieve county public safety missions and spend taxpayer dollars more wisely.

The study used a convenience sample of 81 RFPs from jails in 28 states; the documents were published in the Find RFP database from June 2008 to May 2015.

This research revealed wide variation in the ways that counties arrange to provide health care in their jails and the information they supply to help vendors craft bids. Many of the RFPs did not include all the information that bidders would need to propose an appropriate plan for delivering services at a realistic price. In addition, few RFPs specified performance requirements and financial penalties or incentives that would hold contractors accountable for meeting the requirements. 

Despite the high prevalence of substance abuse among jail populations, few of the RFPs requested medication-assisted treatment, described in the report as a proven method for treating addiction.

"Counties that contract out for jail health services need to recognize and capitalize on the crucial opportunity to further their public health goals through carefully crafted, detailed RFPs and close oversight of the resulting contracts. And all counties should consider efforts to connect people leaving jails to care in the community," the report concludes.

Download the report, Jails: Inadvertent Health Care Providers »