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PNS Daily Newscast -August 16, 2018 


Trump responds to a critic by revoking the security clearance of a former CIA director. Also on the Thursday rundown: farm groups urge speedy passage of the Farm Bill; and newspapers nationwide publish editorials denouncing anti-press rhetoric.

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Prison-Reform Advocates Urge Rauner to Sign Medical Co-Pay Bill

Correctional facilities assign incarcerated people to work as close to a regular day as possible, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. (Rennett Stowe/Wikimedia Commons)
Correctional facilities assign incarcerated people to work as close to a regular day as possible, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. (Rennett Stowe/Wikimedia Commons)
August 10, 2018

CHICAGO – It's been more than a month since legislation that would eliminate co-pays for doctor visits to prison inmates went to Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk for approval. Prison-reform advocates are calling for the governor to sign House Bill 5104 to get rid of the $5 fee inmates have to pay to get treatment.

Jennifer Vollen-Katz is executive director of the John Howard Association of Illinois, which independently monitors corrections facilities. She says many people who are incarcerated don't have the funds to pay for care.

"Many of the incarcerated people in Illinois are people that come from poverty, that do not have the means to see a doctor, to pay that $5," says Vollen-Katz.

People who work while they're serving prison sentences earn wages much lower than those on the outside, often less than a dollar a day. The Illinois Department of Corrections, which supports the charge, says its elimination would hurt those it aims to help by reducing the budget by $59 million over 10 years.

Inmates also must pay for essential items such as bars of soap and toilet paper, while sometimes only making nine cents per hour. Those in favor of the co-pay say it requires people in prison to share in their cost of care, for which the government pays thousands of dollars, and cuts down on unnecessary doctor visits.

But Vollen-Katz says the issue also impacts the general public, when those who can't afford preventive care leave the prison system.

"Ninety-eight percent of the people inside of our prisons are going to return to their communities. And living in environments where hygiene is difficult, where germs are spread easily, you create situations where health can be compromised."

According to the Prison Policy Initiative's 2017 study, the national average for states that charge a co-pay is $3.47, with Nevada leading the nation at $8 per visit.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - IL