Thursday, May 19, 2011

California will release expensive medical prisoners

I wrote previously about the Governor from Mississippi who released two sisters from prison because the cost of providing dialysis was more than the prison system could bear.  This seems to be a nationwide trend.  Under a state law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in September, prisoners who are in a highly incapacitated state and deemed to pose no threat to society can be released if the parole board approves.  The legislation was passed as a cost savings measure.

The first prisoner up for release is Steven Charles Martinez, a 42 year old quadriplegic who needs total care.  He had multiple arrests before entering prison in 1998 after being convicted in a brutal rape and kidnap of a woman.  It was a very violent crime and he was sentenced to 157 years in prison.  While in prison,  two inmates attacked Martinez and stabbed him in the neck, lacerating his spinal cord and making him a quadriplegic who requires feeding, position change, oral care and cleaning of his body and bed due to incontinence.

Both the warden and chief medical officer at the Corcoran prison have recommended he be released as he poses no threat to society in his current state.  So far the corrections department has recommended that the parole board deny his release due to the "vile nature" of his crimes who could use others to carry out his threats. The state Board of Parole hearing will begin next week.

There are dozens of other incapacitated prisoners who would qualify for early release and will be up for hearings.

I am slightly conflicted on this issue.  The cost of caring for these patients will not go away if they leave prison.  They will become Medicare/Medical eligible and still depend upon taxpayer's dollars.  But the care would be cheaper as prison care is much more expensive and special guards are required for all patients-even those in vegetative states when they receive medical care.

Our prisons are designed to protect the public, but also to "punish" the offender.  Victim groups expect the offender to spend their remaining days locked up.

This is one with no easy answers.  I don't want an aging child molester or violent murderer at home sitting comfortably on a sofa, watching re-runs of "CSI".  But spending millions on debilitated prisoners, when that money could be better spent on children and other needed health care should tilt the scale toward  financial stewardship and common sense.


Pissed Off Patient said...

Well when they go on medicare aren't they subject to Arizona like budget cuts?

'Sorry, you're too expensive to keep alive. Enjoy your death!'

The economic crunch has been a death sentence for many people.


Anne said...

I agree that this is a complicated issue, it would be interesting to know how much money would be saved in releasing all prisoners in this category.

Anonymous said...

I think we as a society need to rethink prison as a valid form of punishment. It is not very effective and is very expensive. Some type of graded restitution/corporal punishment/capital punishment would be more effective and cheaper.

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