Legislature Should Broaden ‘Compassionate Release’ for Sick, Aging Inmates, Sacramento Bee Says
Pointing to a "massive" class-action lawsuit filed last week against the Department of Corrections over the quality of prison health care, a Sacramento Bee editorial says that no matter who prevails, "California will have to spend more on inmate health care." Although Gov. Gray Davis' (D) administration officials "claim they are doing a better job than previous administrations and have plans to increase the Department of Corrections' medical budget by at least $16 million next year," the editorial says that such an increase would improve medical services "at only four of the department's 33 prisons." Further, the editorial notes that the prison population is not only growing but aging. Therefore, the editorial says that the state Legislature "should reconsider a recommendation made by the legislative analyst five years ago to broaden 'compassionate releases' for the sickest and oldest inmates." The editorial notes that compassionate "releases would not relieve the state of the entire obligation to provide health care, but it would allow some ex-convicts to receive Medicare or veterans' benefits." The policy would also "eliminate the high cost of providing security for the terminally ill, severely disabled or elderly inmates." The editorial concludes, "To substantially reduce the cost of health care in prisons, the Legislature will have to reduce the state's prison population" (Sacramento Bee, 4/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.