Case of Comatose Inmate Illustrates Calif. Prison Budget Woes


In 2003, Edward Rister was left comatose after a beating by his cellmate at California’s Solano Valley State Prison. So far, the beating has cost taxpayers more than $1 million — $600,000 for guarding the severely brain-damaged Yuba City man 24 hours a day and at least $474,000 more for medical care, reports the San Jose Mercury-News. Rister’s is the latest, and so far the most expensive, in a series of cases highlighted by the Mercury News in which the state pays officers primarily on overtime to watch incapacitated, brain-damaged and brain-dead inmates.

The case of Rister, a 44-year-old convicted child molester, exemplifies some of the most troubling aspects of the $6.5 billion-a-year state prison system that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to clean up and bring under financial control. It helps illustrate the high rate of violence in California’s 32 prisons, soaring medical expenses and the Department of Corrections’ costly insistence on round-the-clock guarding of comatose inmates. Treatment of inmates like Rister is one reason overall prison medical bills more than doubled in five years to $1 billion annually.


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