An excerpt from the blog and article:
The man in charge of upgrading the quality of health care in California's overcrowded prisons has an idea for taxpayers: medical parole. J. Clark Kelso, the federal court-appointed prison health receiver, suggests that California could stop spending millions of dollars a year if officials could grant parole to a handful of inmates who are comatose or otherwise severely incapacitated. "I am keenly aware, as are the courts," Kelso said, "that a dollar that we can save in the prison health care program is a dollar that can be spent on other important priorities for the state, such as education, money for children, the elderly, other health care programs." An aide in Kelso's office said that, conservatively, the prison system could save $213 million over five years by paroling just 32 inmates identified as severely incapacitated. Twenty-one of those 32 inmates are in nursing facilities or hospitals outside prisons, which requires spending for expensive guard time – including overtime – as well as huge health care costs. These 21 inmates' average annual health care and guard costs total more than $1.97 million apiece – a total of $41.4 million a year for 21 individuals, said Kelso aide Luis Patiño. "These people are not even capable of realizing they're being punished," Patiño said. "Society becomes the victim, because it's paying the cost." The 11 other severely incapacitated inmates are inside prison health centers, where their annual medical bills average $114,395 each. Kelso's office supplied these details after he and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, announced March 17 that Leno had introduced a bill to create medical parole.
Leno said 1,300 inmates' health care costs exceed $100,000 a year, and that up to 700 prisoners could qualify for a possible medical parole under his bill.... With medical parole, Leno said, California's prison system would save by transferring medical costs to federal programs and eliminating guard costs. Prisoners are not eligible to enroll in federally funded Medi-Cal or Medicare, but parolees are. California legislators passed a proposal similar to Leno's in 2003. Then-Gov. Gray Davis vetoed it, instead signing a bill to allow prison officials to contract space for inmates at non-prison health facilities. Davis called it "a safer, humanitarian and more cost-efficient alternative to parole."
State Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, generally a tough law-and-order legislator, said he thinks "it's an illusion" that such large savings could be achieved with medical parole. "Part of the problem is figuring out who this group is," he said. "If someone is truly vegetative then maybe there is a reason to consider this."
Leno said his Senate Bill 1399 would apply narrowly to certain inmates who cannot function on their own, including inmates bedridden with end-stage Alzheimer's or on ventilators or feeding tubes. He cited the example of an inmate with dementia, paralysis and no speech or bladder control whose two years of outside care has cost $350,000 a year, not counting guards. Another inmate on a ventilator, Leno said, has cost more than $500,000 in the past 18 months. Medical bills for a third inmate with end-stage cardiac disease and other complications have topped more than $1 million a year, he said.
Leno said he doesn't want to minimize crime victims' suffering. But legislators are facing tough budget choices, he said, and must find ways to contain prison costs, which are consuming nearly 11 percent of the state general fund. "I, for one," Leno said, "would much rather save the jobs of 35 teachers, rather than continue to incarcerate 10 comatose inmates at a quarter of a million dollars a year."
He said 36 other states have a version of medical parole, including Texas, which is putting about 100 to 170 inmates a year into that status.
Fresno Bee article on the same subject mentioned a notable case out of Kern County:
In 2008, prison records showed that one inmate in Kern County left in a vegetative state after being assaulted in prison was guarded by two round-the-clock correctional officers at an outside nursing facility at a rate of $2,317 a day.
The job of watching over inmate Jackson Phaysaleum, 24, was considered overtime because it was not budgeted for guards, officials said in 2008.
The guards' time added up to more than $410,000 during a period of less than six months through May 2008 – almost as much as the $421,000 in medical care Phaysaleum received during that time frame.
Phaysaleum is still alive and is six years into a 46-years-to-life sentence for killing two men in a drug-turf dispute. However, he was transferred back to Kern Valley State Prison's health center in late 2008, an official there said.
"Medical Parole Proposed to Cut Parole Costs," Fresno Bee
Soundbites from Senator Leno's news conference
SB 1399 Bill Analysis