With California’s prison medical bills nearing $1 billion a year, state legislators are questioning the use of tax dollars for procedures like a male inmate’s breast reduction surgery and skin treatments at a Beverly Hills dermatologist, reports the Los Angeles Times. Paying millions to shuttle prisoners to hospitals hundreds of miles also faced criticism yesterday. Inmate health care spending is nearly double what it was in 1999. “Even if it weren’t a tight budget year, this would be something that is absolutely unacceptable,” said Assemblywoman Wilma Chan.
The state runs 32 facilities with 160,000 inmates, and health care accounts for a large part of its $6-billion annual budget. Corrections Director Jeanne Woodford noted that she must abide by judgments requiring medical care that may seem excessive. Lawmakers say the state can do better. “We need to protect the constitutional rights of the prisoners, but excuse me, as a taxpayer I have constitutional rights too, and these guys are getting care that I don’t even get,” said Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn.