California Taxpayer Dollars Burned on Comatose Inmates

In our last blog, we told you about unfair prison conditions in the New Jersey prison system.  Today, we’ll talk about what’s happening with California’s prison system—and how taxpayer dollars are keeping comatose and paraplegic inmates on lockdown.

The Los Angeles Times reported on a 57-year-old inmate partially paralyzed by a degenerative nerve disease.  For the last year, the inmate has called a private hospital his home, and has relied on a breathing tube and ventilator.  To prevent his escape, he remains shackled to the bed and guarded around the clock by not one, but three law enforcement officers–to the tune of $800,000 taxpayer dollars each year.  All this security to monitor a convicted child molester who is not only paralyzed, but who requires a ventilator to breathe?

In fact, this inmate is one of 25 permanently medically incapacitated inmates currently treated at outside hospitals.  Some of them are in comas, some are paraplegic, yet California taxpayers will pay more than $50 million this year for their hospital treatment.  Not quite half of that money will pay for the guards who make sure these inmates don’t escape.  What’s worse—these medically incapacitated inmates are candidates for parole because they are no longer considered public threats.

Despite a September law designed to medically parole such inmates and spare taxpayer dollars, the California Department of Corrections has yet to schedule any parole hearings.  Due to lack of regulations to implement the law, there is no foreseeable timeline to schedule such hearings.  While on medical parole, inmate care would fall to inmates’ families or, if the families could not afford the care, would fall to other government programs.  Inmates freed under medical parole could be returned to prison if their condition improved enough to become a public threat.

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