The hot story in California this morning the request, from the court appointed overseer of the state prison health care system, for $8 billion dollars over the next 5 years to build new facilities. He wants almost half ($3.1 billion) this year, which would bring the budget gap to $20 billion. The argument is that health care in California's prison system is so bad that it violates prisoners' constitutional rights.
There's a constitutional right to health care? Where did that come from? And can I get some?
Don't get me wrong. I actually agree with the court that California's prison system is broken and should be fixed (well, I really think it should be downsized by about half, at which point the existing facilities would be adequate). And I buy the court's argument that, having locked these people up so they can't take any action on their own about their health, we've assumed the responsibility to maintain it for them - which we are shirking.
But a constitutional right to health care: how about that as the basis for a single-payer system? Hmm?
I also liked this quote:
"I think it's a sad day for California taxpayers when we're talking about health care improvements for convicted prisoners when hard-working, law-abiding folks are having trouble finding affordable health care for themselves and their families," said Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines of Clovis (Fresno County). "It just shows how one is so out of touch with reality."Mr. Villines is right; it is a sad day for California taxpayers when hard-working, law-abiding folks are having trouble finding affordable health care. Let's apply some of those constitutional rights to them, shall we?
Or we could just continue our existing attitude, which is that, since we're not willing to provide health care for our hard-working, law-abiding folks (and we aren't), we shouldn't even try to provide it for the people we've locked up in prison. Let 'em die, and "decrease the surplus population."
I'm sure Mr. Villines would agree.