Hinds County Mulls Inmate Medical Expenses | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Hinds County Mulls Inmate Medical Expenses


Hinds County District 3 Supervisor Peggy Calhoun's motion to deny Milwaukee Electric forgiveness for taxes because of errors on the company's behalf passed today.

Hinds County is on track to outspend its budget for inmate medical expenses, county supervisors learned at a meeting this morning. Dan Gibson, the county's inmate medical facilitator, told supervisors that, six months into the fiscal year, the county has spent $1.3 million on medical care for prisoners, more than 50 percent of its annual inmate medical budget. Last year, inmate medical expenses were roughly $700,000 at this point.

"We are having a difficult year," Gibson said. "Last week, I had a meeting at the jail and they said, 'It seems like everyone that's getting arrested has a severe medical condition.'"

Gibson attributed part of the increased expense to psychiatric services for inmates, which have cost the county $51,000 this year, compared to only $10,000 by this time last year. The board is currently waiting to decide whether to hire an additional psychiatric nurse to fill in after the resignation of the county jail's in-house psychologist. The county jail has also seen a record number of HIV cases and several lengthy hospitalizations for individual inmates, Gibson said. HIV medications can cost $1,000 per prescription.

County officials have attempted to minimize inmate medical costs by expediting cases for prisoners with health problems who are charged with minor crimes. In one case, the Sheriff's Department expedited the case of a woman in full-term pregnancy, releasing her just as she entered labor, Gibson said.

Supervisor Peggy Calhoun asked Gibson if the prisoners with the most costly medical problems tended to be homeless.

"We aren't seeing as many (homeless) as we were," Gibson said.

Homeless in Jackson are particularly susceptible to tuberculosis and HIV, Hinds County Deputy Sheriff Steve Pickett said.

"Somehow as a community, as government, we're going to have to address the homeless," Calhoun said. "We're going to be bankrupt taking care of them."

Supervisor George Smith suggested that the county work with officials and law enforcement in Jackson to minimize the number of ill prisoners in jail for minor offenses.

"In my opinion, one of the serious discussions needs to be with the city of Jackson," Smith said. "I'll bet you 90 or more percent of these cases come from the city of Jackson."

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