Monday, May 16, 2011

Long sentences boost prison costs for seniors' healthcare

The Houston Chronicle has a story today on a topic familiar to Grits readers titled "A growing burden: As more elderly prisoners serve time, state officials struggle to pay their medical costs." The article opens:
A growing population of elderly inmates is driving up prison medical care costs to the point that some Texas lawmakers would like to see more of those who are feeble and chronically ill released early.

In the last decade, the number of inmates 55 and older has spiked as much as 8 percent each year, growing to about 12,500, while the general inmate population has remained fairly flat.

In prisons across the country, inmates grow old serving longer sentences and enter prison at an older age. Between 1999 and 2008, the number of inmates 55 and older in state and federal prisons increased by 76 percent to 76,400 inmates, according to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. The general population grew by 18 percent.

With rising medical care costs and dwindling state budgets, policy-makers and prison officials have struggled to keep pace. Elderly inmates in Texas make up 8 percent of the state's prison population, yet they account for more than 30 percent of prison hospitalization costs.

In fiscal 2010, the state spent more than $545 million on inmate health care. It paid $4,853 per elderly offender for care compared with $795 for inmates under 55, according to the Correctional Managed Health Care Committee.

"It's no different than in the free world," said Dr. Owen Murray, chief physician and vice president of offender services for the University of Texas Medical Branch, which provides most of the state's prison medical care. 

"They're more expensive because they have more medical needs."
Legislation to speed up medical parole failed to make it through the process (too many other important things to attend to, I guess), so it's up to the parole board to address this problem if it's to be confronted at all. Given their record on medical parole, though, there's scant cause for optimism: "In Texas, more than 1,000 offenders are identified each year as being eligible for medical parole, according to a Legislative Budget Board report. About a third of those are processed and presented to the state parole board, which approves 25 percent of those cases each year. Since 1991, 1,287 offenders have been released under the program — about 64 prisoners per year, the report said."

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sunray's wench said...

It really is not good enough. The solution for this is squarely in the hands of the BPP, and if TDCJ recommend an inmate for parole on medical grounds you can bet they don't make that decision lightly. To have the BPP turn them down simply shows an arogance and what we over here call sheer bloody-mindedness that they have absolute power and are damned well going to use it.

The sooner the BPP is dismantled and Texas starts treating parole like the solution it can be rather than a perk that is begrudgingly handed out to a tiny number of inmates with less likelihood of winning the state lottery, the better.

Anonymous said...

In 2009, the Parole Board considered over 70,000 parole applications and granted over 23,000. The Board uses public safety as the ultimate guide in deciding whether to release an inmate.

The Legislature pushes for releases based on cost-savings. When public safety is protected, only then can cost be a consideration.

I trust the Parole Board, not the politicians to make those decisions.

Many sex offenders are just as capable of offending from a wheel chair.

Money can't be the deciding factor. That is how early release rose to 80% in the late 1980's, early 1990's, resulting in a serious jump in violent crime.

sunray's wench said...

"I trust the Parole Board, not the politicians to make those decisions."

You trust them to make an informed decision even though the average time spent reviewing each parole application is just 45 seconds? You trust them, even though two of the most common reasons for denying parole are things the inmate can do nothing about and fly in the face of the legislature surrounding them: nature of offence, and insufficient time served? You trust then even though they are unelected and unaccountable?

Even if you take the financial cost out of the equation, it still makes more sense in many cases to parole older inmates.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

Folk's, It seems to me that most people know that the human body ages. Most people realize that you cant tell what will happen with a persons health in their 60's or 70's when they are in their 20's or 30's.

That being said let's look back a bit to say the 70's (1970's) when Dallas County sent 2 brothers to prison for 5005 years each. There were more examples but the point is if we decide to sentence someone in that manner, we should not cry 30 years later when he has Alzheimer's and cancer and we have to provide his medical care. If we decide to incarcerate a person to life without a chance of parole, same thing , don't cry. I have not seen anyone sentenced to life unless you become a medical problem, at least not yet. To tell the truth I do see it coming in the near future. I think that the reasoning behind those huge sentences is just to help someone make a career statement anyway, so maybe they should be required look toward the future before they start strutting around like a banty rooster with their chest stuck out. Lets use some common sense and not be so surprised. How did this happen, is the STUPIDEST question I have ever heard in regard to these situations. Dallas and Harris Counties are the worst.

Anonymous said...

As if adding the Bass felony wasn't enough; Were you aware of the anti-noodling legislation Scott?

DEWEY said...

12:46 "Many sex offenders are just as capable of offending from a wheel chair."
Please cite examples (if you can !) I don't know of any, and I deal with SO issues all the time.

S.O. said...

"Many sex offenders are just as capable of offending from a wheel chair."

This would be a great statement if it weren't total bullshit. I am so tired of seeing the word 'many' regarding registered offenders. There is no 'many' involved IF an RSO commits another offense. It is an INDIVIDUAL that re-offends, and registered sex offenders rarely re-offend. Due process is ignored by the parole board 100% of the time regarding an RSO up for parole.

If public safety was truly being attempted, the proper evaluations would have been put into place in 2003 when it was ordered by law, instead of the lip service the legislature paid to the Bill of Rights, by ordering such then slashing funding to the Counsel on Sex Offender Treatment.

Anonymous said...

There is one!

A convicted sex offender on probation wheeled his sorry scum bucket self on a school yard and exposed himself. His probabtion was revoked, he is imprisoned on a unit with an infirmary where he lives, gets 3 hots, a hospital bed, wound care, meds, goes to the law library, recreation and collects books on man/boy love and how it's ok, been done for years and tries to rationalize it.

Should we let him out?