Friday, August 26, 2011

Medical Parole Law in Action: The State Focuses on Expensive Inmates

SB1399, recently passed by the legislature, allows the state to grant inmates medical parole. It confirms sections already in the existing penal code, but note the cost-related rationale:

The California state prison health system has identified 21 inmates whose average annual health care and guard costs total more than $1.97 million apiece. This is approximately $41.4 million a year for the care of 21 prisoners. These inmates are located in off-site nursing facilities or hospitals which require paying guard time, even though these prisoners are severely incapacitated. Eleven other inmates are inside prison health centers, where their annual medical bills average $114,395 each. There are currently 1,300 California state inmates whose health care costs exceed $100,000 a year. Inmates released on medical parole would shift the cost of their health care from the state to the federal government as prisoners cannot enroll in Medi-Cal or Medicare, but paroles [sic] can.

CDCR news has reported granting medical parole to the 7th inmate since the passage of the law.

As I've said elsewhere, humonetarianism is not unlike the risk management regime that has permeated corrections in that it is busy conducting selective incapacitation and grouping people into categories. But note the shift in focus: Rather than focusing on risk as the dominant category for classification, we are now focusing on cost.  The cost-centered discourse and practice are shifting the way we look at the prison population. Rather than focusing on the high-risk inmates, we are focusing on the expensive ones as targets for reform and legislation.

Oh, and apropos costs: I'm working on a book that examines the impact of the financial crisis on the American correctional landscape, focusing particularly on California. Basically, it would be a book about humonetarianism. Your thoughts and contributions about this fascinating phenomenon, which I've been documenting here for the last two and a half years, are most welcome.

1 comment:

Father of a Dying Son in a CA Prison said...

Whether it's humonetarianism or the proper response for a civilized nation, medical parole is the humane and morally proper response for our dying offenders. Why keep these disabled or incapacitated human beings imprisoned anyway. They are not a threat to society. It costs the taxpayers $2B annually also. One does not have be "soft on crime" to see the sense in relaxing the current medical parole and compassionate release laws in the CA Penal code. It makes no sense to me unless we want to support Sadism or the the Prison Guard lobby wants to keep everyone employed and with hefty pensions.