Inmates Expected to Pay for Health Care

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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.

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Waurine Parker

I understand the states need to reduce expenses. But to charge for health care to an inmate that does not receive any form of income other than the money a love one sends is unfair. Why am I the one paying. It’s hard enough for me to make ends meet. I send my son 25.00 dollars a month to help pay for soap and small stuff If u paid the inmate. I would understand. But this is robbing me. Why am I paying for Crime by our Prisons


Another stupid law passed by another stupid person. If you want the inmates to pay for these services then Texas needs to pay them a hourly wage for the work they do while incarcerated. If I send my money to a inmate it is for that inmate to use in commissary not to pay medical bills or anything else. [...]


i am searching for where and how to get an inmate health insurance….i have a friend who needs surgery, brain surgery…state / county won’t pay for it…they are just hoping / waiting for this guy to die in jail…supposedly IF he can provide insurance to get his necessary surgery he can then work on bailing out…he’s between a rock and hard spot…needs surgery….thats a priority…obviously he can’t bail out, pay attorney and health insurance simulaneously…so…if anyone knows what to do i’d appreciate it…..thank you

Kathy Smith

I agree, the families are paying for their loved ones medical when we are already paying taxes that are partly used for the inmates. It sounds a lot like taxing us twice. I was informed last night that if there is a child of the inmate they will also take child support out of their commissary funds. This sounds a lot like a ‘CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT’ in the making. If anyone knows what type of attorney one would contact about this please post it so others can get in on it. Most of us have a hard time sending what little money we can to the inmate and then the state is going to take half of it just because the inmate got sick.

cliff marlowe

People,write/email your congressman & Senator The US constitution states that all incarcerated
People are considered slaves, and so being,
Must be furnished Food, Clothing, Shelter, Medical, and Mental Health.

1May 2013

cliff marlowe

On the issue of Slavery, see Amendment XIII
Of US constitution.
1 may 2013.

Karen B. Turner

How and where in the world do I pay this $100 Medical? I’ve been looking and so far can’t find where to send the money to.

Ioana Datcu

Why prisoners are not paid for the work they do while incarcerated? They should be paid, and the businesses that profit from their work should pick up the tab.


It is sad that government keep finding a why to stick it to the little people. It the inmates dont have family members that struggle to send them money, then they do not have to pay. But when love ones (who pay the same taxes as everyone else) send money, government wants it. This is sick but not surprising. From now on I will send him a package, but I am sure Madden will find a way to get that too while he is sitting there eating his steak!!

Amy Tamez

I understand that healthcare is expensive and that “the state” needs to cut back on expenses, but when a person becomes an inmate, the state of Texas is completely responsible for their healthcare needs, regardless of the expense incurred. The state of Texas gets paid a portion of money per each inmate they house in the system, and the workers in the prison work for free. TDC is a turn key operation and make millions of dollars a year from housing an inmate, to working them with free labor and selling the goods that TDC produces. That was just me spewing, however, even though there is a new law in place for inmates to pay a $100 for their medical needs and healthcare, federal law states that the state of texas is solely and completely responsible for an inmates healthcare needs while incarcerated. That said, families should not be punished for a crime they didn’t commit and ARE NOT REQUIRED to pay for any healthcare needs. This is stated and proven in Estell vs Gamble, Sec 429. So to the families that feel that you have to pay, you don’t need to pay! Look up the law and file an appeal with TDC to reimburse you for all monies you have already paid into your loved ones healthcare. They are going to try and say that you still have to pay it but federal law overrides state law and they have to oblige by the laws in place!