Inmates Expected to Pay for Health Care
By Raymond Thompson
For Reporting Texas and KUT News
A new law requires Texas prison inmates to pay $100 a year for medical services. But because prisoners aren’t paid for the work they do while incarcerated, their families might have to pick up the tab.
Jennifer Erschabek, chair of the Austin Chapter of the Texas Inmate Family Association, says that while some families will have no problem complying with new law, many won’t be able to adjust.
“It is an unfair burden for a lot of people,” she said, “because the part of society that can’t afford to get the best attorneys, the best lawyers, the best contacts, to get their love ones out or to help their need, they’re stuck in those situations and they become the indigent ones in the system.”
A new law requires the money come from trust accounts set up when people start serving their prison terms. Prisoners who can’t cover the fee will have half of the money in their accounts garnished until the debt is paid. Those with less than $5 in their account aren’t charged. State Representative Jerry Madden, R-Plano, says that he proposed the law to offset some of the $900 million that prisoner health care cost taxpayers in the last two-year period.
“There would be a significant cost that they would be paying, for anybody that’s out there, to get health care. Their visits to the doctors and hospitals would cost more, and so I don’t think that’s an unfair burden at all,” Madden said.
The number of inmates in Texas prisons is decreasing but not fast enough to offset budget cuts in prison health care. In addition, Madden says that the new law will only raise $9 to $10 million over two years.