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Managing Prison Health Care Spending

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2013
44 pages
This paper provides information for policymakers on how States manage spending for prison health care and the factors that affect these costs.
Research found that in 2008 prison health care spending in 44 States totaled $6.5 billion out of $36.8 billion in overall institutional correctional expenditures, with 35 of the 44 States having a 28 percent median growth in per-inmate spending from 2001 to 2008. This significant increase in costs was attributed to the large increase in prison populations resulting from tougher sentencing laws and more restrictive probation and parole policies that placed more people in prison and for longer terms. Other factors affecting the rising cost of prison health care include the aging inmate population; increased efforts to prevent chronic and infectious diseases, mental illness, and substance abuse among inmates; and costs associated with delivering health care in prisons, such as distance from hospitals and providers. Efforts by States to deal with the rising costs associated with prison health care are examined and discussed in this report. These efforts include telehealth, working with outside partners such as public university medical centers to provide all or part of prison health care costs; using Medicaid financing for eligible prisoners' health care services; and adopting policies allowing medical or geriatric parole. The report highlights how these strategies can provide States with opportunities to save taxpayer dollars and maintain or improve the quality of inmate health care spending. Figures, appendixes, and endnotes