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AZ DOC contract questioned

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

New questions are being raised about a contract state officials signed with a private company to provide healthcare to Arizona inmates.

Corizon was recently awarded a three-year, $369 million deal to provide healthcare to Arizona prison inmates.

CBS 5 News has learned one of the men on Corizon's payroll is former Arizona ADC Director Terry Stewart, who's been doing consulting work for Corizon since 2010.

Current director Charles Ryan used to work for Stewart, raising questions about a possible conflict of interest.

"With money of this sort and the amount of responsibility over people's lives, it should be looked into," said ACLU attorney Dan Pochoda.

CBS 5 News asked Ryan directly if there was any conflict with the contract they signed with Corizon.

"Of course there was not. Our process has been above board," Ryan said. "Terry Stewart had nothing to do with the RFP process. He was not involved, period."

Ryan said that Wexford, the company the state hired last year to provide health services to inmates, suddenly wanted out of the deal, leaving the state with few options.

Ryan said they could either start the request for bid process over again, which could take six to 12 months, or use one of the other two companies that submitted bids last year.

Corizon was one of the other companies.

"Of the two remaining vendors, they had the most reasonable proposal to consider," said Ryan. "The bottom line is that we had to maintain the continuity of inmate healthcare."

Ryan also told CBS 5 News that the other company bidding for the contract made an offer far beyond what the state had allocated, leaving Corizon as the only realistic option.

"It is a process that was endorsed and reviewed by the attorney general's office and state procurement office," said Ryan. "We followed the law to the letter."

Another problem facing the ADC is a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of inmates, claiming they are not receiving adequate healthcare.

A spokesperson for Corizon said that state officials were in no position to delay getting a company in to provide inmates with health services.

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