Healthy inmates have kept Asotin County Jail health costs low

CLARKSTON, WA - Department heads in Asotin County said that they do everything they can to curb costs every year.

The Asotin County Sheriff's Office is feeling a little relief this year thanks to the health of their inmates.

Asotin County Sheriff Ken Bancroft is breathing a little easier at the end of this budget year. Some of that relief can be attributed to inmate medical costs.

"My budget is $130,000 for medical alone, it's about a-tenth of the budget for the jail," said Bancroft.

Bancroft said he's got about $24,000 left in that budget allotment. Below average in a jail that houses roughly fifty inmates on a given day.

"I sit there and gnaw on my fingernails worried if we're going to go over or under," said Bancroft.

It's a constitutional right for inmates to have access to dental care, prescriptions, hospital visits and surgery. Whether they can afford it or not.

"We have the obligation to maintain their health," said Bancroft. "And it's our goal that they walk out of here in better condition than they came in."

And in serious emergencies, like an inmate who contracted the flesh-eating disease MRSA, they provide around the clock bedside guards.

"Bad enough that he had to have surgery and had ICU care," said Bancroft.

In Washington state prisons the medical care system is slightly different than the county jails as they have 24-hour in house care. But Department of Corrections Spokesperson Norah West said they are well in their budget this year also.

"The average annual cost of health care per offender is roughly $6,000," said West. "And we have roughly 17,000 offenders in our care."

Bancroft said if the inmate is able to afford it or has insurance the county gets paid back after their sentence.

The Asotin County Sheriff's budget for the 2013 budget year is $1.27 million dollars.