Texas legislators consider shuttering another prison and paroling some older, infirm inmates to nursing homes in a bid to shift more than $400 million toward rising health care costs and much-needed repairs and upgrades to aging corrections facilities, the Houston Chronicle reports. The state already is poised to spend more than $6.7 billion over the next two years for prisons and corrections programs. With the Legislature looking at the tightest state budget in years, lawmakers are looking for ways to save $421 million in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice operations to cover surging costs associated with overseeing the state’s 147,000 convicts.
Topping the list is $247 million to pay for inmate health care during the next two years, including facilities, doctors, equipment and medicines. Much of that increased cost for care is needed to provide health care to an aging prison population, said Bryan Collier, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Forty-six percent of the state’s convicts are over age 55, a group that accounts for 40 percent of expensive hospital visits. To help cover those growing costs, Collier said officials are looking to increase the co-pay amount charged to convicts for health care from $100 to $200 a year. Thousands of those convicts are indigent and cannot afford to pay for their care. Officials said another state prison could be shuttered to save cash, the fifth in six years in a state that once went more than a century without closing one.