Two elderly Texas inmates suffering from chronic heart and lung failure require round-the-clock medical care that is costing taxpayers nearly $1 million a month, the Ft. Worth Star Telegram reports. The inmates, both sex offenders in their 70s, remain in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Galveston. They are breathing with the aid of ventilators.
The Texas prison population is rising nearly 13 percent a year as the state faces budget problems. Inmates older than 55 are one of the fastest-growing segments. Officials cannot release the two men to a nursing home or other long-term care facility, where medical bills would be lower and paid by federal funds, because Texas law bars the early release of those convicted of sex crimes. “We’ve got two guys costing us a million dollars a month and they ain’t a threat to anybody,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat who chairs the Criminal Justice Committee and led a recent fight to tighten sex offender paroles. “We could use that million dollars for other treatment programs. We could use it for education. What we’re doing just doesn’t make any sense.”
Victims advocates, however, don’t want convicts released early just to save money. “You do the crime, you do the time,” said Dianne Clements, president of Houston-based Justice for All. “Juries knew the ages of these offenders when they gave them their sentences, and they took into consideration how old they’d be. It’s just that simple.”
Dr. Ben Raimer, chairman of the state’s correctional managed care system, said officials can use special-needs paroles to release ill inmates who are not convicted sex offenders and make them eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.