FILE - Texas Prison

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit

While Texas’s prison population declined during the decade, its costs to provide inmates health care did not.

The state spent nearly $800 million on prison health care during the previous fiscal year, according to an analysis of state data by the Texas Tribune, attributing the 53 percent increase from more than a half-decade ago to an aging inmate population.

While the Texas Department of Criminal Justice data show that the total prison population decreased by three percent, the number of prisoners older than the age of 55 jumped by 65 percent. According to the TDCJ, older inmates account for nearly one-eighth of the population but take up most of the system’s hospitalization costs.

Prison officials report that the older population seeks treatments for hepatitis, HIV and cancer, which is spiking costs.

According to the Houston Chronicle, more than 18,000 inmates have been diagnosed with hepatitis. A federal lawsuit filed in September claims the department has denied inmates access to an expensive Hapatitus C drug.

More than 40 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prisoners’ access to health care is a constitutional right, with UTMB and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center bearing the responsibility since 1994.