Indiana ranks near bottom among states in health spending for prisoners

Indiana ranks near the bottom of all states for spending on health care for prison inmates, and has cut spending by double-digit percentages in recent years.

That comes as many other states are increasing health spending in prisons to deal with a wide range of health issues, from chronic conditions to mental-health disorders.

“Treating chronic conditions has emerged as a growing challenge and expense in state prisons, exacerbated by an aging prison population,” according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Indiana ranked 46th among all states for per-inmate health spending in 2015, or about $3,246 a prisoner, the report said.That amount was 12 percent lower than the 2010 spending figure of $3,678.

The median spending for 49 states was $5,720 per prisoner. (New Hampshire did not provide data.)

Only three states—Louisiana, Alabama and Nevada—spent less than Indiana on health care per prisoner.

In contrast, the top four states—California, Vermont, New Mexico and Wyoming—all spent more than $10,000 per prisoner on health care.

The 135-page report did not say why some states spent so much more or less than others, or to list health outcomes.

“Little has been known systematically about whether and how states measure and monitor quality in their prison health care systems,” the report said. “Even less is known about actual outcomes. Despite the absence of such information, differences in per-inmate expenditures probably reflect, in part, differing levels of care provided.”

A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Corrections declined to comment on the study, but said the state’s goal is to provide “high-quality care given at the right time in the right way.”

“High-quality care is the most cost-effective, efficient way to provide care,” said spokesman Doug Garrison.

In March, Indiana switched vendors for health care, ending its relationship with Corizon Health, based in Brentwood, Tennessee, and hiring Wexford Health Services, based in Pittsburgh.

The switch in providers came after the South Bend Tribune published an investigative series called “Profits over Prisoners?” The series noted a spike in the number of inmate medical complaints under Corizon Health, along with questions about oversight and allegations that profit often took priority over critical health services for inmates.

The Indiana Department of Corrections runs 42 institutions—including prisons, diagnostic centers and re-entry facilities—for 27,355 adults and 456 juveniles.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Editor's note: IBJ is now using a new comment system. Your Disqus account will no longer work on the IBJ site. Instead, you can leave a comment on stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Past comments are not currently showing up on stories, but they will be added in the coming weeks. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.