Transcript: Assemblyman Jeff Gorell’s Q&A with LAO analyst Drew Soderborg on the impacts of overcrowding on medical and mental health care in California prisons before the Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment on Oct. 21, 2013

Partial transcript of Assemblyman Jeff Gorell’s (R-Camarillo) Q&A with Drew Soderborg, Managing Principal Analyst, Corrections, Transportation, and Environment, at the Legislative Analyst’s Office, on the impacts of prison overcrowding on medical and mental health care in California’s prison system. The hearing before the Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment was held on Oct. 21, 2013:

Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo):
…How much does California spend per inmate? How much of that expenditure is related to health care maintenance for the inmates? And how does that proportion compare to other states? If you have that information.

Drew Soderborg, Managing Principal Analyst, Corrections, Transportation, and Environment, at the Legislative Analyst’s Office:
Yeah, that is something that we’ve looked at. So right now – in 2010, I should say, there was a study done of 39 different states in the amount that they spend on health care. The average was roughly about $5,000 per inmate. But nearly all the states surveyed spent between $3,000 and $7,000 per inmate. In that year, CDCR was spending $16,000 per inmate, including $11,000 specifically for medical care. So CDCR’s spending is quite a bit above the national average.

Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo):
And what do you attribute that additional expenditure to? Are there additional services that California inmates receive that they don’t receive in other states? Is it the cost for physicians and salaries? Can you quantify what that difference is?

Drew Soderborg, Managing Principal Analyst, Corrections, Transportation, and Environment, at the Legislative Analyst’s Office:
That’s something probably to be specific about, I’d have to get back to you. But I think one of the major contributors is likely the amount that the health care professionals are paid in California. One of the primary ways the receiver tried to reduce the vacancy rate was by significantly increasing the salary of those individuals, and that led to a situation where, you know, you have a prison and all the psychiatrists, for example, get raises at that prison, that increases the going rate for psychiatrists in the area so area psychiatrists will get raises which forces the prison system to again increase salaries. So I thin that that was part of it.

I can consult with some folks from our office to get you some additional examples.

Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo):
…I’d be interested to know what specific services are available to California inmates that aren’t available in other states because my understanding is that there are elective surgeries and things that California inmates have access to that other inmates may not and that could increase or inflate the cost for health care for inmates. So I’d like to see more information on that if I could.

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