TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NEWS SERVICE FLORIDA) – Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to fund the Florida Department of Corrections next year at $2.7 billion, a spending plan that has some criminal-justice reform advocates pointing to struggles facing Florida’s prison system as a result of increased health-care costs.
Following litigation, the state needs to meet court mandates requiring it to provide better treatment for inmates with Hepatitis C, mental illnesses and disabilities. Those issues, mixed with an aging prison population that is driving up health costs, has led DeSantis to propose a $120 million increase to cover inmates’ health care.
“The story this budget tells is that we are simply funding the mandated costs of court orders and trying to keep the lights on in the prison system,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who chairs the Senate panel that oversees prison funding.
While the state deals with increased pharmaceutical costs, DeSantis has directed Corrections Secretary Mark Inch to explore various strategies to drive those expenses down, including further negotiations with pharmaceutical companies and bulk purchases, according to language in the proposed budget.
A lot of those costs stem from litigation brought by attorneys for the Florida Justice Institute. A federal judge found that the Department of Corrections had failed to treat prisoners with Hepatitis C despite the fact that medications had been available. The court also found the lack of treatment was due to financial issues.