Including parolees, one of every 31 U.S. adults is under the control of the U.S. justice system. Oklahoma incarcerates more than 25,000 people, the fifth-highest per capita rate in the nation, and has the highest female incarceration nationally. Another class of folks the taxpayers pay for is Medicaid recipients, which now include about 11 of every 1,000 Oklahomans, many of whom are in nursing homes.
Violent criminals should be locked up and kept in jail, but low-risk, nonviolent offenders, especially white collar criminals and single moms who write hot checks, shouldn't be jailed at taxpayer expense. They should be working, repaying the victims of their crimes and raising their own kids, not pawning them off on the taxpayers. When convicted offenders with assets go to jail, many serve their time, keeping their net worth intact, while elderly people needing nursing home care must spend most all their money before being eligible for Medicaid. At taxpayer expense, inmates get nutritious food, health care, dental care and access to quality education. On Medicaid, people get decent care but not the perks of prison.
Comparing the quality of life afforded by taxpayers to prisoners to the quality of life of a typical taxpayer-funded nursing home resident, to be more equitable we should perhaps start sending our old folks to prison and our prisoners to the nursing home.
Randy Wedel, Stillwater
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