California has identified 25 “permanently medically incapacitated” inmates being treated at outside hospitals who are candidates for parole because they no longer pose a threat to the public. The Los Angeles Times says taxpayers will pay more than $50 million to treat them this year, between $19 million and $21 million of that for guards’ salaries, benefits, and overtime, according to he federal receiver who oversees California prison healthcare.
In September, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a “medical parole” law designed to spare taxpayers the cost of guarding severely ill inmates. Some are in comas, others paraplegic. If the prisoners were released from custody, the medical costs would shift to their families if they could afford to pay, or to other government programs if they could not. The expense of guarding the patients would be eliminated. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has yet to schedule a parole hearing for even one such inmate. “It’s maddening,” said state Sen. Mark Leno. who sponsored the bill that Schwarzenegger signed. “We have school districts on the verge of closing” because of the state’s budget crisis. “We don’t have millions of dollars to squander on this kind of nonsense.” An official would not predict when the first sick inmate might get a parole hearing. “These are complex public-safety regulations,” she said.