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August 23, 2009

Interesting review of medical furloughs from Alabama's prisons

This story from today's Montgomery Advertiser, which is headlined "It's tough for terminally ill inmates to receive medical furloughs in Alabama," provides an effective review of how one state is dealing with the challenging intersection of health care and prisons costs.  Here are some excerpts:

Almost a year ago Alabama passed a law that would allow terminally ill inmates a chance to die at home and, it was hoped, save the state a little money. But the eligibility criteria for the new medical furlough are so strict that it could be a long time before the state Department of Corrections sees significant savings.

When Alabama passed its law last year, it became one of 36 states to provide a medical furlough for incapacitated or terminally ill inmates.

Ruth Naglich, associate commissioner on health services for the department, said when the bill was first proposed, 120 of the state's 25,000 inmates were identified, but that number shrank once the final law was in place. In a year's time, the state has released three terminally ill inmates, and they were just released this summer.

The first medical furlough release, Omar Rahman, was so ill that he died 30 hours after his release. He was serving a life sentence and had been in prison since 1982, according to the department's records. The other two inmates who have been furloughed are alive.

So who's not eligible? Sex offenders and those convicted of capital murder. "The number of prisoners eligible was brought down, particularly when they took out sex offenders," Naglich said.

And even if you are an inmate who is technically eligible -- no identifiable risks, no warrants in other states, no sentencing restrictions -- Naglich said the state is challenged to find somewhere to put you. "Some inmates simply don't have any family left," she said. "And if they have family left, they might not have the means or ability to care for the individual as the bill requires."...

Larry Spencer, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Alabama State University, said the drafters of the state's medical furlough program are cautious for a reason -- prisoner furloughs are risky business....  Spencer said the state has to look at a lot of different things to ensure that it is making the right call, including an inmate's criminal history, what type of adjustment the inmate made in prison and how sick he or she really is....

Naglich said there are 170 inmates who are suffering from a debilitating or terminal illness, but there are 6,000 statewide who are in some kind of chronic care clinic. She said a patient who receives dialysis three times a week and has other related illnesses costs the state between $60,000 and $65,000 a year.

An inmate with cancer might cost the state $68,000 and an inmate who has a stroke and must use a wheelchair for the rest of his or her life could cost the state an extra $45,000 to $50,000 because of extra staff, equipment and nutritional needs.

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Alabama- corrupt! Patrick Swiney was an innocent man in prison-absolutely and was allowed to DIE just recently...please feel free to review:
Correctional Medical Services: Since when do their nurses decide who gets medical care?


Posted by: prisonmovement | Aug 23, 2009 7:57:20 PM

This is a wonderfully timed post, coming mere hours after the "compassionate" release of the principal actor in the terrorist mass murder over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 23, 2009 9:00:19 PM

I've practiced criminal defense law for over 30 years. States that undertook to get "tough on crime" and impose lengthy sentences also assumed and undertook to pay for the costs of incarceration of those inmates, including expensive, end-of-life, health care. I have no sympathy at all for the legislators now in office having to deal with the problem. The voters implicitly authorized them to raise taxes to the level needed to pay for what the voters wanted when those sentences were imposed, or to cut other services, to find the money.

Posted by: Greg Jones | Aug 24, 2009 10:14:48 AM

In my opinion, Alabama's prisons' story shouldn't be broadcast constantly.

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Posted by: chelation therapy | May 20, 2011 5:14:11 AM

My son was recently arrested for revoking parole. At his sentencing, the judge granted a "medical furlough" because he is dying from cirrhosis. Instead of allowing my son to come home and receive treatment, the jail continues to send him to hospitals for treatment. I question this medical care since it is within the penal system. Is there anything I can do? It is in the state of Virginia.

Posted by: mbethmckinney | Apr 17, 2012 1:09:57 PM

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