Georgia Frees Inmates With Sky-High Health Costs

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The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has released 54 inmates under what is known as a medical reprieve. They include six murderers, five armed robbers, two child molesters and others convicted of felonies such as arson, burglary and drug trafficking, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says.

The driving force behind the releases is the cost of caring for the inmates, which can be astronomical. Thirty-seven inmates whose medical expenses were classified as “catastrophic” cost the state Department of Corrections $4.1 million. One inmate with lupus, diabetes and kidney failure cost taxpayers $340,000 last year. She died in prison.

With medical costs spiraling upward and the number of inmates rising, officials say the number of prisoners released is likely to increase. “If a patient-inmate is requiring a great level of care and they’re not a public risk, what point is it to keep them incarcerated at taxpayers’ expense?” said William Kissel, state corrections director of health services. Medicaid, which is taxpayer-funded, almost always picks up the tab for the inmates. Releasing an inmate frees up a bed in the crowded state corrections system and relieves the department of the $17,500 average annual cost of caring for a prisoner.

Mike Light, a member of the Parole Board, said members must weigh the circumstances of the inmate’s crime and the medical condition. Light said, “I’ve got to look at the crime first and foremost and then weigh everything against that,” he said. “There are some horrible people who should die in prison no matter how sick they become.”


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