Dallas County soon will begin charging certain jail inmates for their basic medical expenses, a practice common in some other states and a few Texas counties, says the Dallas Morning News. Sheriff Lupe Valdez said that within six months she will charge inmates a medical co-payment by tapping money in their commissary accounts, which they use to buy such items as toiletries and snacks. Inmates and their families put money in the accounts.
Those without commissary money will not be charged for medical services, and emergency and chronic care will still be covered by taxpayers. “The families are putting money there and inmates can use it for gummy bears or to take care of their health,” said County Commissioner John Wiley Price. Dallas County spent $32.3 million last year on jail medical services. About 65 to 70 percent of the total inmate population receives some medical care. The idea is not to generate revenue for the county but to cut recurring costs of transporting inmates to receive care.