California plans to slash its medical-welfare program by one-third, trimming more than 25,000 beds for inmates and veterans from a program that has historically seen more convicts sent to death row than the number on California’s general population.
The state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has spent about $2 billion on the medical-welfare program since it began in 1969. Though the state reduced more than 26,000 beds, it plans to reduce more than 25,000 as part of a three-year plan to cut costs by $100 million, said Derek Benner, a corrections spokesman.
The news was described as “unfortunate” by James Cohen, chief executive of KIPP, a school that serves many prisoners and homeless people. “We wish that more inmates would have access to healthcare while incarcerated, but not all deserve it,” Cohen said.
The cuts will affect both inmates who are serving time and those who have been recently released, but are restricted to inmates who are on ventilators or have come close to dying.
Many of the state’s medical facilities are located in areas where people don’t ordinarily have access to health care — such as the streets outside San Quentin State Prison or the medical facilities at Coalinga State Prison, the corrections department said.
The cuts to the medical program will take effect in mid-November.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that five legislators in California sponsored a bill, while five legislators actually sponsored one bill to reduce medical aid for prisoners.