Unquiet Minds

A day room in the Monterey County Jail housing unit reserved for the defendants enrolled in the Jail-Based Competency Treatment program. The defendants receive intensive therapy and are taught what happens during a trial; in order to regain competency, they must be able to assist their attorney with their defense and understand the proceedings they face.

In 2018, California Forensic Medical Group, then the jail’s medical provider, joined with Correct Care Solutions to form a new company, Wellpath, the jail’s current medical provider. It’s partly owned by the Florida-based private equity group H.I.G. Capital, which, according to the nonprofit Private Equity Stakeholder Project, is expected to become the country’s largest provider of health care in correctional facilities – including at ICE detention facilities.

Jim Baker founded the Chicago-based nonprofit after working for the labor union Unite Here!, which represents workers across a variety of industries, including hotels, food service and gaming. He did it because he had noticed a trend of private equity investments impacting jobs, housing and health care for union members, he says. In recent years, the project began focusing on private equity firms profiting on incarceration and detention.

“H.I.G. is probably the most prolific investor in companies profiting from prisons and detentions,” Baker says. “There were problems at both predecessor companies that joined to form Wellpath, so needless to say, if there are problems at both, just growing it into a bigger company won’t necessarily solve those problems.”

In a 2019 report on H.I.G., Baker notes specifically the 2015 deaths of six Monterey County Jail inmates, including Larra Ann Gillis, who died after 28 hours in custody and who, according to the attorney representing her sons in a federal lawsuit against Monterey County and CMFG, received only a single cup of water while in custody.

She was arrested after being found wandering in traffic, screaming, “Please help me! I don’t want to die!” She was taken to a hospital after a nurse found her covered in feces, moaning and unresponsive. The parties settled the lawsuit in 2018 for $825,000, with the cost split between CMFG and Monterey County.

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