The South Carolina Legislature is responsible for preparing budgets for all of the state's business operations. These include corrections, education, public assistance, Medicaid, transportation, and other programs.
The cost of maintaining prisons is covered in the state budget and, according to a report from the National Association of State Budget Officers, the funds allocated for prisons in South Carolina exceed public assistance spending.
The state budget was about $21.4 billion in 2014, and allocated approximately 2.7 percent of the funds to corrections, nearly $600 million annually, reported Ballotpedia
. Within that amount, a large percentage was consumed by prisoner healthcare expenses.
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Healthcare spending in correctional facilities has required huge expenditures, and debate among taxpayers have called to question ways to reduce spending in this area. Most states have seen growth in spending in this area, partially created by aging populations of prisoners.
The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation presented a report of state spending for prisoner healthcare
in December 2014.
In its analysis, a whopping $6,798,873,000 was spent in the United States for prisoner healthcare, with $65,520,000 spent in South Carolina. Broken down per prisoner, Americans spent $6,047 per prisoner for healthcare while South Carolina prisons spent $2,933 per prisoner in 2011.
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How did South Carolina compare to other states regarding prisoner healthcare? According to the same report by the Pew Foundation, South Carolina was second lowest of states in terms of prisoner healthcare spending, with $2,833 per prisoner.
South Carolina was followed only by Oklahoma, which spent only $2,558 per prisoner.
The highest paying state was California, spending $14,495 per prisoner. The numbers were based on a five-year study, ending in 2011.
Healthcare costs included doctors' fees, including specialists. Among those were surgeons, oncologists, internal medicine specials, ophthalmologists, dermatologists, and dentists.
Hospital fees, medications, supplies, such as bandages and orthopedic devices, and mental health services also contributed to the costs of caring for inmates. As the prison population aged, medical costs increased, in prison as well as in the general population.
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