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Baby Boomer Inmates Raising State's Health-Care Tab

Posted February 8, 2007

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— Inmates over the age of 50 are a burgeoning part of the state prison population, and the bill for their medical care is rising along with their numbers.

The average annual medical bill for one of those inmates is $7,000, and the total runs into the millions.

"That age group is rising faster than any part of our inmate population," Carolina Prisons Director Boyd Bennett said Wednesday.

He explained that mandatory sentences and the state's “no parole” policy have led to an increase of nearly 50 percent in the over-50 inmate population in the past five years, from about 2,700 in 2002 to more than 4,000 now.

"As people get older, they have more medical problems, obviously, and anything medically related is very expensive, we're having to spend a lot more out for inmate medical care," Bennett said.

Bennett says the state spent about $195 million on health care for all inmates last year, up 16 percent from 2005.

Some lawmakers have introduced a bill asking the prison system to study policies in other states, and one lawmaker believes early parole could be an option.

"There are going to be ethical and legal issues that we haven't had to look at before,” state Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland County, said.

“Maybe do we send them home so they can die with their family or with hospice care?" Glazier said.

Another step toward reducing health-care costs is a $132 million hospital being built at Central Prison. That facility should be finished in about four years.

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  • llm Feb 16, 2007

    It is hard to take this concept sometimes. Prisoners are property of the state and therefore the state is responsible for their humane care (and of course religious rights). They do have to pay co-pays($5) if they request medical treatment. They have to pay for their toiletries unless they are indigent. Some have jobs-road squad, maintenance, janitors, kitchen work, laundry, meat plant, cannery plant, producing highway paints, office furniture, sewing plant for inmate and officer uniforms, etc. Some of the ones without jobs are the ones that are "medically unfit." The health care costs are associated too with not only aging but diseases from their lifestyles (Hep and hiv). It is quite a mess. I agree. (They don't have internet access, I want to clarify.)

  • narck9 Feb 8, 2007

    I know how we can save money on the inmate health care issue. Do not give them health care. Problem solved!

  • superman Feb 8, 2007

    Cut cost--enforce the death penalty. As for the guy in Sanford-- I dont know much about the case-- but how did 12 people find him guilty if all the evidence they had was his voice? Sounds like 12 crazy people on that jury. Could there be more evidence than that?

  • spiritwarriorwoman Feb 8, 2007

    tbajr - "Let all of the non-violent drug prisoners go. They don't need to be in prison anyway."
    They broke the law and they are exactly where they're suppose to be.
    norwin - When are we going to start having inmates WORK (chain-gangs) to "earn their keep?" There are plenty of projects around the state that these folks could be helping with."
    But remember, we are suppose to be living in a civilized society here in the US. If we deny them care and one of them dies because of it, there could be lawsuits for neglect or negligence.
    God bless. Rev. RB

  • normalthinking Feb 8, 2007

    I say only provide them the health care they can afford. If I have to pay for my medical care so should they and if they cant pay they dont get treated just like me. Prison is for punishment not welfare.

  • GIGATT Feb 8, 2007

    blueridgelab...that's sounds better than what my father-in-law had in the nursing home. No wonder why crime is on the rise. Most of these criminals have it better in prison than they do outside of prison. They probably have better health care than I do with my huge monthly premiums and out of pocket expenses. Wait, they are part of the reason I have huge monthly premiums and out of pocket expenses!

  • ladiip2 Feb 8, 2007

    blueridgelab.. you are exactly right...i also feel some people are locked up 2long for much lesser offenses...these cases should be looked at again and if its not killing, abusing(sexually), attempting a murder they should be considered for leave... they have a 1x drug seller locked up longer than a repeated sex offender...who poses more of a threat? We at least have the option to say no to drugs.

  • kstor33 Feb 8, 2007

    Obx4ever...are you assuming that everybody "that's out" is obeying the law? What about those in jail that are innocent? It does happen you know, take the guy from Sanford last month.

  • obx4ever Feb 8, 2007

    I agree with the death penalty. If they were out we would still be paying for their health care, plus the public would be in danger, so do whats right for the people who obey the law.

  • blueridgelab Feb 8, 2007

    Prisoners get three good meals a day are allowed outside, clean facilities, a bed with clean linens, clean clothes to wear, TV, air conditioning, heat in the winter, exercise equipment, library, visitors, personal hygiene products, work priviledges for spending money to buy cigarettes and other things, mail, computer access, continuing education classes, religious services, art classes, access to mental health professionals, access to legal professionals, and last but not least excellent medical treatment. I should have it so good.