Medical bills piling up for county inmates

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

GREENCASTLE -- The Putnam County Sheriff's Department went before the county council Tuesday with a request for additional money due to medical bills acquired by inmates.

Vova Johnson, an assistant matron at the jail, said the department (as of Tuesday) is short $80,000 to pay medical bills. That figure does not include bills not yet received on three inmates transferred to Indianapolis heart hospitals by Putnam County Hospital or the two remaining months of the year.

The department began 2009 with $150,000 budgeted for medical costs, but also started with a $55,000 deficit.

Additionally, Johnson explained in the past the jail was not responsible for medical costs should a person be taken to PCH before being booked into the jail. Now it is state statute the jail be responsible for those costs too.

"There is nothing we can do," said Sheriff Steve Fenwick, who was present at the meeting with Johnson.

This deficit also does not include inmates waiting to be transferred to the department of corrections, as the jail is not responsible for their medical costs. The sheriff's department was asking for the $80,000 to be transferred from the rainy day fund.

However, the council could not vote on this issue due to the rainy day fund not being advertised to date. It will have to wait until the November meeting before an official decision can be made. The council requested the sheriff's department to include numbers for the rest of the year when it returns next month.

In addition, the sheriff's department had a full-time jail officer resign Monday and requested to hire a new person for the position.

Council vice president Darrel Thomas asked if new money was going to be needed or if money was already in the fund for the position.

Fenwick said the money was already in the fund and no new money would be needed.

The council approved the request, subject to approval by county commissioners at their Nov. 2 meeting.

After appearing before the county commissioners Monday and receiving approval, Superior Court Judge Denny Bridges and Circuit Court Judge Matthew Headley went before the council to discuss hiring a court referee.

Since some of the council members did not receive a copy of the proposal in a timely manner, council president Mitch Proctor asked the judges to give a "reader's digest" version.

"This will benefit the tax payers," Bridges said in his opening statement. "Folks using the court system will benefit."

He explained a referee would be appointed by himself and Headley and would receive a $75,000 annual salary with 33 percent of that figure reimbursed by the federal government on Title 4 cases heard by the referee.

There would be minimal start-up costs because most of the office supplies needed are already in place and space is open in the prosecutor's office.

"The timing is right with the prosecutor's office leaving," Bridges added. "We would have the space and most of the office supplies."

Council member Opal Sutherlin was interested in knowing how it would affect the workload at the clerk's office. Thomas and council member Roger Deck wanted the judges to prepare a budget, while council member Nancy Fogle wanted to hold off on a decision until the county gets its 2010 budget back.

The judges were requesting the money be transferred out of the rainy day fund, but the item was tabled until the November meeting for a few reasons -- needing to advertise the rainy day fund and wanting more time to "digest" the proposed information.

Thomas also showed concern over the proposal since the sheriff's department needs a large amount of money out of the rainy day fund.

In other business:

* For the first time in Putnam County history, a farm has been given a tax abatement. The Legan Farm is expanding its operations and requested a tax abatement at the August county council meeting.

The family-owned farm, which produces 40,000 weaned pigs and about 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans annually, is located in the eastern part of the county.

Mike and Phyliss Legan are looking to expand their ag business by approximately 10 acres with a 26,000 square-foot building and two new employees. The farm currently employs eight.

While some council members were concerned giving the abatement would cause other farmers to request abatement, it voted to give the Legan Farm a 10-year abatement on the building and equipment.

Following the approval, Fogle noted she was hesitant to agree because of things she has heard.

"Nothing against anyone," she added.

Proctor and Thomas said the council should take a look at abatement rules and set some guidelines for the agriculture businesses of Putnam County.

* Putnam County Treasurer-elect Sharon Owens went before the council for transfers of appropriations. The $6,000 transfer for help on tax sales and during November tax collections was approved. However, the $1,400 transfer to cover meetings and seminars was turned down by a motion made by Fogle and seconded by Sutherlin.

Owens also gave an update on the hundreds tax sales.

"When we started there were 1,900 properties, now there are 575," she said. "We have collected approximately $400,000 and there are two weeks left."

When questioned by Sutherlin about comments on the time elapsed between tax sales, Owens said there have been a few.

* Emergency Operations Center director Dave Costin was approved for two transfers totaling $900 for office supplies. The money will be transferred out of the EOC's utility fund.

* Putnam County Health Department administrator Beth Glaze went before the council to have a fund set up for the grant it will receive for the H1N1 vaccine from the state through the Centers for Disease Control.

She was given approval.

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  • That is why we have habitual offenders,some really have nothing to loose.

    -- Posted by c1991 on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 4:47 AM
  • AddingMyTwoCents- have you ever spent any time in the PCJ? I have, and have never in my life had worse meals. Breakfast consists of kid's cereal or doughnuts. Never eggs, adult cearal or anything remotely healthy. Lunch typically bologna on white bread with chips, which was also a common "dinner". Never a fresh fruit or vegetable. I'm sure they are required to give the inmates a certain amount of calories, but they all come from sugar, fat and carbs. As for the "free medical care", if an inmate is profusely bleeding or dying he will get immediate attention (if lucky) otherwise it's a LONG wait to see anyone and then they are reluctant to do anything. So before you get so outraged, learn some facts. It's not such a treat for the inmates.

    -- Posted by '74tiger on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 6:45 AM
  • to '74tiger it shouldn't be a treat. True us law abidding citizen's don't know what it is like, but we work hard for our money and health care. And to know that we are also paying for the ones in jail is quite aggravating. I think the harder it is in the prisons and county jails maybe they will stop breaking the law.

    -- Posted by breezyville on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 7:30 AM
  • Wow, what an incentive to commit a petty crime. Free health care. Let's see, if my heart gets bad, I could commit a crime that would put me in jail for just the right amount of time; I'll have free transportation to the heart hospital, free medical care, free room and board. I guess that sounds a lot better than the stress of paying medical bills as an un-insured citizen and then having to file bankruptcy. just a little R & R in the local jail.

    (really i wouldn't do that, but my gosh, that whole health care while in jail setup seems twisted)

    -- Posted by just a local on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 7:39 AM
  • Could the inmates own health insureance be applied here (providing they even have their OWN health care before committing some type of crime.) Why should their health care not be applied towards their health problems. They were probably turning it in before they arrived at the jail anyway. Could someone tell me if I had health insurance, I stole something and was put in jail, does my insurance policy state, "If you are incarcerated we will not cover your medical needs? Just curious. And the heart hospital in Indianapolis. Take them where the rest of us can afford to go. Maybe some things need to change. And for the childrens cereal..we don't get adult cereal, for the love of god. Are you kidding me! Shut up, if you don't like it, don't go back to the jail.

    -- Posted by whodouthinkur on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 8:04 AM
  • Maybe thats what the New Health Care Reform will be, all non insured in Jail for Free Health Care? Try being self employed paying Your taxes and having nothing left to purchase your health care insurance!

    -- Posted by macvrod on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 8:11 AM
  • Pretty sure it's Mark Legan, not Mike.

    On the health care issue, is that what they mean by a public option??

    -- Posted by JustinH on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 8:46 AM
  • I was told of a guy that found he had a major illness and had little insurance so he went and got arrested. The county picked up all his medical bills. He gave up his freedom to save his life and I guess I don't blame him, he simply used the system.

    -- Posted by Trying hard on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 8:47 AM
  • I do not feel that taxpayers should pay medical bills for the people who break the laws and are sent to jail or prison. If we would not provide medical care, they would die off, therefore resolve the problem of overcrowding.

    What do we need a referee for?????

    -- Posted by Taxpayer5253 on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 9:08 AM
  • Ok lets start off my saying.. if you are in jail then you did something wrong correct..Well unfortunatly in our society you are innocent until proven guilty. So in a Nutshell everyone that is in the care of the county or should I say Wards of the county is in fact innocent.Unitl they are found guilty by a jury or by pleas agreement. I dont know about you but I would rather be free and not have insurance than to be locked up in that god forsaken place.The food is not from Almost Home like some of you think it is.. maybe their dumpster. As for medical stuff THAT IS THE JOB of the person who is in charge of them hense they are property of the county.From what I understand the state supplys per inmate a certain amount of money per day for food housing and for medical needs aswell.. even before sentencing.After sentencing that rate jumps higher. Heck what do you figure a doughnut, a cup of nasty coffee two slices of bread a slice of bologna a bag of chips cost per day..I would say last than 5 bucks.not to mention the crap they serve for dinner so we will just double it.. 10 bucks a day for food. The jail has already been built yes they have overhead such as electricity and guards.etc. But please this is nuts. Lets not give them medical attention and seehow quick the state comes down on them and the formally known as a criminal is now free with a new bank account thanx to who?? Oh that would be us the tax payer.Some people in this county obviously are not very bright to look past their own nose and see the lawsuits and human rights violations that would happen..All i can say in closing is the jail gets money from the state before and after they are sentenced as well as a kick for all the collect calls that are made at 5 bucks a please do not let them say they need money..

    -- Posted by Oh My Goodness on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 2:06 PM
  • A: What the heck does family working in the jail have anything to do with medical expenses.

    B: If they aren't jailed, people complain. If they are jailed now you're complaining!

    -- Posted by WTFRUthinkin on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 2:30 PM
  • whodouthinkur - Lots of people that get arrested have their OWN health care before committing some type of crime. The reason their health care isn't applied towards their health problems is because they usually get fired once they are arrested, and they no longer have coverage. Get it?

    "I would rather be free and not have insurance than to be locked up in that god forsaken place."

    Amen, Oh My Goodness - you made many valid points.

    -- Posted by '74tiger on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 10:15 PM
  • 74 tiger, I would rather be free also. But then with that attitude, "I'd rather be free with no health insurance," just passes your health problems onto me. But I see your point. I'm still tired of paying everyone else's bills. And if they are innocent until proven guilty, although they maybe sitting in jail, then they should still be responsible for their own bills. I've worked many, many, many years, and I'm tired of working to pay everyone elses expenses. I'd like to keep a little bit of it for myself.

    -- Posted by whodouthinkur on Thu, Oct 22, 2009, at 7:56 AM
  • One more thing, if they hadn't committed a crime, then they shouldn't be ******** about losing their job or not having health care, or not getting an adult bowl of cereal. Yes, they do have it quite well in prison, considering they are locked up. If you have not worked in the prison system, then you really don't know what it's like!!! Gourmet cooking classes, ceramic classes, weight gyms like you wouldn't believe, movie nights, that blanket is itchy...I don't like these boots, I need my own suntan lotion, I really didn't do it and the list goes on and on.

    -- Posted by whodouthinkur on Thu, Oct 22, 2009, at 7:58 AM
  • People in jail are HUMAN BEINGS.

    ALL human beings deserve to have there medical needs met. It's what a civilized people would do.

    ..and you want to call us a christian nation? HA!

    -- Posted by paying attention on Thu, Oct 22, 2009, at 8:24 AM
  • Oh My Goodness...Your information is a little off. All inmates at the Putnam County Jail are not Department of Corrections inmates who the county is given a stipend for housing. About 50% are county inmates and there is no state monies given for them. The DOC does not pay anything until an inmate is sentenced to the Department of Corrections which means any time they spend in jail before sentencing is on the county. I too am a taxpayer and am just as frustrated as the next guy but getting on the Banner Graphic web site and spewing half truths is not going to solve the problem. If you truly want to know how the system works, call the Sheriff's office or the Auditor's office or your Commissioner or Council member. Every county office's budget and expenses are governed closely by the State Board of Accounts. Your implication that there is some underlying mysterious motive is just wrong. I agree with AddingMyTwoCents also. It is an outrage when law abiding hard working citizens can't get or afford health care but it is the law and until it changes all inmates have a "right" to medical care and if they don't get it our tax dollars will go to line the pockets of attorneys and make inmates wealthy! Some people don't know how to stay out of trouble but they sure know their "rights" while incarcerated!

    -- Posted by aok on Thu, Oct 22, 2009, at 6:12 PM
  • In response to Paying Attentions comment: Whether we are a Christian nation or not the fact is these people in jail ELECTED to have their rights taken the moment they committed a crime. I believe all people make mistakes, but I should not have to work two jobs to pay for their medical bills!

    And I don't think anyone is debating with you whether or not people in jail are still considered human beings because I think we can all agree that they are. But they are human beings that don't deserve to be taken care of for free. What would happen if you went to the hospital and couldn't pay for the bill right then and there? They bill you! So, what I'm thinking is, if the inmates get sick and need medical attention.... bill their butts when they leave the jail.

    -- Posted by WTFRUthinkin on Thu, Oct 22, 2009, at 9:37 PM
  • Paying're right, all HUMANS deserve to have their medical needs met! But we all don't. The only guarantee is when you get sent to jail or prison!

    -- Posted by whodouthinkur on Fri, Oct 23, 2009, at 8:07 AM
  • I sometimes wonder what would happen if we all took care of each other no matter the cost or whether someone is "deserving" but to the best of our abilities.

    I know call me a dreamer.

    -- Posted by paying attention on Fri, Oct 23, 2009, at 11:19 AM
  • Thats why they are arresting people for petty crimes. I have notice more action in the scanner lately. It's funny how these cops can come up with the money when they need it. That puts more money into the court systems. This is very unconstitutional! Remember big brother is watching you!

    -- Posted by 1stamendrights on Fri, Oct 23, 2009, at 6:06 PM
  • Paying attention, you are dreaming. How about this...YOU keep working and YOU keep paying everyone else's bills. Here's mine by the way, I'm tired of working.

    -- Posted by whodouthinkur on Mon, Oct 26, 2009, at 8:46 AM
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