With the Legislature certain to face a tight state budget when it convenes next January, state officials confirmed Tuesday they are exploring a plan that could parole many of the most infirm, bed-ridden offenders into secure nursing homes where the offenders could be kept track of by ankle monitoring bracelets.
State records reveal that the 10 sickest convicts alone cost taxpayers more than $1.9 million during 2011, a figure that prison doctors say is growing every year as Texas’ prison population gets older and more infirm.
In all, records show that convicts over age 55 now make up 8 percent of Texas’ prison population, but account for 30 percent of its medical costs. ...
An internal prison report shows health care for the 10 costliest offenders ranged from $331,651 a year for a 48-year-old Houston robber to $131,294 for a drunk driver who died in prison.
At least three others are mostly bedridden with various ailments: A 40-year-old Dallas drug dealer’s health care cost $226,806 a year, a 57-year-old Corpus Christi armed burglar cost $181,779 a year, and a 34-year-old El Paso murderer cost $181,779.
Some prisoners have had open heart surgery, leg and arm amputations, kidney failure, while others have terminal cancer, paralysis and other maladies that have limited their mobility, officials said.
Taking into account the cost of security, [Texas Civil Rights Project attorney Brian] McGiverin estimated that if the state released on parole its terminally ill and infirm convicts, the savings could reach $76 million over two years.See related coverage from the Texas Tribune, where the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Marc Levin provided more conservative savings estimate than McGivern:
Marc Levin, director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, agreed that the process is creating needless costs. In a recent report, he noted that granting parole to “infirm” inmates would save the state $42.6 million in 2013, while only adding $1.57 million in parole costs.Most of these high-expense prisoners/patients would be eligible for SSI or SSDI if they were paroled, meaning the feds would pick up their medical tab instead of it coming 100% from the state general fund. If the state is going to do this, though, it would behoove them to assist with eligibility determination for benefits as part of the reentry process so that local hospital districts aren't stuck with the tab for indigent services.
Levin said his organization is planning to propose legislation to simplify the process for medical parole. Levin said time and money are wasted when doctors spend write recommendations for inmates who won’t be considered eligible for medical parole anyway. And, he said, the parole board members don’t likely have the medical knowledge to understand the language in the recommendations.
A single commission with doctors and parole officials “in the same room” discussing cases “would really streamline the process,” Levin said.