The man in charge of upgrading the quality of health care in California's overcrowded prisons has an idea for taxpayers: medical parole.
J. Clark Kelso, the federal court-appointed prison health receiver, suggests that California could stop spending millions of dollars a year if officials could grant parole to a handful of inmates who are comatose or otherwise severely incapacitated.
"I am keenly aware, as are the courts," Kelso said, "that a dollar that we can save in the prison health care program is a dollar that can be spent on other important priorities for the state, such as education, money for children, the elderly, other health care programs."
An aide in Kelso's office said that, conservatively, the prison system could save $213 million over five years by paroling just 32 inmates identified as severely incapacitated.
Twenty-one of those 32 inmates are in nursing facilities or hospitals outside prisons, which requires spending for expensive guard time — including overtime — as well as huge health care costs.
These 21 inmates' average annual health care and guard costs total more than $1.97 million apiece — a total of $41.4 million a year for 21 individuals, said Kelso aide Luis Patiño.
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