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Releasing terminally ill inmates saves state millions

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Releasing 89 terminally ill inmates has saved Mississippi about $5 million over seven years, corrections officials say.

About $3.8 million of the savings was in medical costs and the rest was the cost of incarceration, The Clarion-Ledger reported.

Releasing terminally ill prisoners lets the state avoid costly health treatments and is more humane for inmates facing their final days, officials say. Some were released to their homes, others to care facilities.

“I wouldn’t change anything with the process,” said Dr. Gloria Perry, the Mississippi Department of Corrections chief medical officer.

The department said 18 of those released are still alive, but most die within four months.

Eight have been sent back to prison for additional offenses, but Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said he thinks the program has done well.

The state could release at least 25 more inmates under a proposed bill to extend the law to anyone who is bedridden. “We will be supporting that legislation,” Epps said.

The released inmates were just a fraction of the 21,400 prisoners in the state’s corrections system and of those released early. But they are among the most expensive to keep behind bars, so their release often yields the biggest savings.

The program does have opponents.

“I can understand the cost factor and the humane thing of letting these inmates be with their family, but the victims would have liked to be with their loved ones,” said Carolyn Clayton of Saltillo, founder of the victims’ advocate group Survival Inc.

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