Reconsidering Costs of Longterm Prisoner Care

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California’s budget crisis is prompting questions about whether the expense of incarcerating inmates with special medical needs can be justified when legislators are contemplating cuts to child care centers, aid for the blind, community colleges and other programs.

The Los Angeles Times cites inmate Steven Martinez, a quadriplegic since he was stabbed by another inmate in 2001. Corrections officials say Martinez, 34, may be California’s most expensive inmate. His hospital cell in a high-security prison costs $730 a day – not counting medical procedures, drugs and the salaries paid to his guards. Last year, a bedsore carved a crater in his back, requiring surgery and six months in a private rehabilitation center. The bill: $620,139, nearly half of which was paid to two corrections officers who watched him around the clock. If he lives another 30 years, just meeting his basic needs could cost California $8 million or more.

Martinez is one of about 120 state prisoners who need help with bathing, eating and other functions of daily life. Some are paralyzed or missing limbs; others suffer from brain injuries or Alzheimer’s disease. Thousands more are old, feeble or gravely ill.


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