Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Impact of Strikers' Health Care on Prison Budget

Marisa Lagos's story this morning on the Chron discusses the impact of old and infirm inmates on prison budget. The piece references a report by State Auditor Elaine Howle (which you can access here in full). Her key findings are as follows:

43,500 inmates currently sentenced under the three strikes law (striker inmates) make up 25 percent of the total inmate population. Further, with regards to striker inmates:
  • On average, they receive sentences that are nine years longer—resulting in approximately $19.2 billion in additional costs.
  • More than half are currently imprisoned for convictions that are not classified as strikes.
  • Many were convicted of committing multiple serious or violent offenses on the same day, while some committed one or more of these offenses as a juvenile.
Health Care Services has not fully estimated potential savings from its proposed cost containment strategies. Further, a significant portion of the cost of housing inmates is for providing health care, which includes contracted specialty health care.
  • Roughly 41,000 of the 58,700 inmates that incurred specialty health care costs averaged just more than $1,000 per inmate and cost $42 million in total. The remaining 17,700 inmates incurred costs of more than $427 million in the same year.
  • Specialty health care costs averaged $42,000 per inmate for those inmates that incurred more than $5,000 for such costs and were age 60 and older.
  • The specialty health care costs associated with inmates that died during the last quarter of the fiscal year were significantly greater than any specific age group—ranging from $150 for one inmate to more than $1 million for another.
Nearly 32 percent of overtime costs in fiscal year 2007–08, or $136 million, were related to medical guarding and transportation for health care.

Custody staff’s growing leave balances—due in part to vacancies, errors in Corrections’ staffing formula, and exacerbated by the State’s furlough program—represent a future liability to the State of at least $546 million and could be more than $1 billion.

We discussed this issue before. While Strikers and infirm prisoners are not the majority of prison population, their impact on the budget is enormous.

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