North Carolina is readying a new medical complex at its Central Prison to replace buildings that are too cramped and outdated to treat adequately a growing and aging prison population, says the Raleigh News & Observer. The new $155 million hospital and mental health facility will begin accepting patients next month. Demolition of the old hospital starts Nov. 28.
Corrections officials say the expanded medical treatment will cut the cost of treatment in outside hospitals by a third. The expansion comes at a time when community hospitals are pushing the prison system to take care of more of its own patients. The state now spends nearly $11 million a year driving and guarding inmates during hospital visits. There were more than 1,700 inmate admissions to outside hospitals. The savings in outside medical bills will be offset by additional prison personnel costs. The department plans to hire hundreds of medical and custody employees for the new complex. Corrections officials expect the new health complex will pay for itself in 10 years. The proportion of state prison inmates 50 and older has risen in the last 11 years from 6.2 percent in 2000 to nearly 12 percent in 2010.