Los Angeles Times Magazine Examines Health Care Costs for Elderly State Prison Inmates
The Los Angeles Times Magazine on Sunday examined the "financial toll of incarcerating senior citizens" in the California state penitentiary system, including health care costs. Currently there are 6,400 inmates over the age of 55 housed in state prisons. By 2022, that number is expected to increase to 30,200, costing the state at least $1 billion annually, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.
According to the Times, the state's three-strike law, which mandates life sentences without parole for certain repeat felons, is the "primary culprit" for the rising costs. "Without reform, to reduce the number of 'lifers,' the best hope of containing health care costs lies within a recalcitrant system," the Times reports.
Several "cost-saving measures" have been proposed, according to the Times.
Jonathan Turley -- founder and executive director of the Project for Older Prisoners, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that develops ways for states to address geriatric expenses -- said California would benefit the most through a systematic release program similar to programs he implemented in Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia. Turley added that the state should consider creating an alternative incarceration program and collaborating with its public health programs and state universities to provide medical care to state prisoners.
According to the Times, the release of many elderly prisoners would shift the financial burden of their health care from the state to the federal government.
Another proposal calls for releasing sick inmates who could receive Medicare, Social Security or veterans benefits and tracking them using a system that would cost about $10 daily, according to the Times.
The administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has voiced opposition to the proposals (Kobrin, Los Angeles Times Magazine, 6/26).