Rep. Griffin launches bipartisan effort to cut prison health care costs

Categories: Griffin News

State Rep. Beth Griffin has introduced legislation to allow certain extremely frail and sick prisoners to be relocated to specialized medical facilities, a bipartisan plan designed to save taxpayer money while continuing to protect public safety.

Griffin, of Mattawan, said chronically ill and aging prisoners often have health care costs several times higher than the average inmate. It’s a growing concern in Michigan, where nearly one in four inmates is 50 or older with the average age continuing to rise. Health care already takes up 15 percent of the prison system’s budget.

“Reforming the way we care for medically frail inmates will allow for a more efficient use of taxpayer money,” Griffin said. “Caring for prison inmates who are extremely sick – people who are so frail they can’t bathe or eat on their own – is a difficult and expensive task. It’s far more cost effective to care for these inmates at a specialized facility.”

An initial projection from the Department of Corrections estimates roughly 40 to 60 prisoners could potentially be eligible for the program. The number could grow over time as the prison population ages.

The goal would be to qualify inmates transferred to health care facilities for Medicaid, which would translate to a net savings for taxpayers.

The plan does not allow early release of inmates. Griffin said it would simply permit some inmates with severe and chronic physical or mental disabilities to complete their sentences at a medical facility rather than inside a prison, if approved by a parole board.

Only inmates classified by professionals as not posing a risk to public safety would be allowed to relocate. Prosecutors and victims could appeal decisions, and inmates convicted of first-degree murder or first-degree criminal sexual conduct would automatically be ineligible for the program – meaning they stay behind bars.

“Inmates who are a threat to public safety will not be eligible for this program,” Griffin said. “The inmates we’re talking about here are extremely sick, often bedridden and nearing the end of their lives.”

House Bills 4129-32 have been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.