North Carolina is among a majority of states that release inmates with high medical costs, but who officials believe pose no threat outside prison. The Raleigh News & Observer says a 2007 study showed that North Carolina spent $34 million on health care for inmates age 50 and older out of a $1.2 billion budget that year. That was a 35 percent increase over the previous year. The early parole may shift the expense of medical care from one state agency to another. “If you take them out of the prison system and put them into the public health system, they’re still being paid for by the taxpayers,” said Sen. Andrew Brock, one of 13 legislators who voted last spring against legislation creating the early release program. Dick Adams, who heads the N.C. Crime Victims Compensation Commission, said families of victims with whom he has spoken object to the program. “We should retain some measure of certainty [about punishment],” Adams said, “if we’re going to maintain certainty about public safety.”
South Carolina provides a medical furlough to terminally ill inmates who qualify. Alabama launched its new procedure last year. “It’s one of the policy options states are looking at to save money,” said Alison Lawrence of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Between 2005 and 2007, North Carolina’s prison population grew 5 percent to 38,400. The share of inmates who were age 50 or older grew by 21 percent.