Prison health services cost Oregon taxpayers about $100 million a year, and the figure likely will continue to rise, reports the Oregonian. State prisons strain to care for 14,000 inmates — inmates who are getting older and sicker, half arriving with mental health problems. State officials, boxed in by court mandates, have no choice but to treat them all. Legislators have more than doubled allocations for prison health care over the past 10 years. This session, legislators cut elderly care and treatment for youth addiction. But inmates won’t lose one bit of care.
Prison health care costs take an ever-bigger share of the state prison budget — which itself consumes about 10 cents of every general fund dollar — rising from 6 percent in 2003-05 to 15 percent in 2009-11. With no insurer to help, the state pays for every case. Treating a 40-year-old woman inmate cost the state $1.1 million last year. That was one of nearly two dozen cases in the past year that cost more than $100,000 each.