Florida will spend $375 million this year on health care for prisoners, and next year’s budget anticipates a rise to just short of $500 million. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is trying to do something about it.
Brandes has proposed allowing some prisoners with terminal or debilitating diseases to qualify for early release, potentially saving millions in the process. A bill to that effect is being considered, and Brandes says it would primarily affect very old, sick, and infirm prisoners who are unlikely to reoffend.
Medicare and Medicaid do not cover people who are incarcerated, so the full cost falls on the state prison system. Once released, those programs would become responsible for health coverage.
Under the proposed law, released prisoners would have to wear ankle monitors.
In Florida, a quarter of prisoners are older than 50, and more than 1,600 are 70 or older. Brandes acknowledges that this proposal would mean the release of just about 200 inmates, and he also is promoting other prison reform measures, such as changes to sentencing laws.