California Eliminates Copayments in Prisons and Jails

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA - Governor Gavin Newsom today signed AB 45 which permanently bans California state prisons and county jails from charging incarcerated people copayments for medical and dental visits, and from charging for medically necessary equipment like artificial limbs, dentures, hearing aids, artificial eyes, etc. This will go into effect January 1, 2020.

“Our prison system is based off of exploitation of labor, and these incarcerated individuals make pennies on the hour. An incarcerated individual will have to work over 60 hours while making 8 cents an hour to be able to afford a medical visit,” said Stone. “AB 45 will remove this barrier and ensure that incarcerated individuals receive the care that they deserve.”

Incarcerated people enter prison with disproportionately high rates of poverty, substance abuse issues and mental illness relative to the non-incarcerated population. While in prison, the state has an obligation to provide health services to its incarcerated individuals. The price of a copayment puts incarcerated individuals in a position having to decide if they want to spend their last few dollars to request medical care, purchase basic hygiene supplies, or stay in touch with their loved ones.

This barrier to care can have serious consequences including the exacerbation of minor conditions until they are serious or chronic, and the spread of infectious diseases. California should not be creating barriers to medical treatment when the state already has a higher average suicide rate in its jails and prisons than the rest of the country. California should be making it easier for incarcerated people to access care and AB 45 does just that.

“Without this important advocacy it would have taken 10 months for me to pay off the $255 bill for my dentures,” said Juan Moreno Haines, a journalist and advisor to the co-sponsoring organizations who has been incarcerated for 23 years and currently resides at San Quentin State Prison.

“I don’t have family support; all I have is my prison job. I am hopeful that the Legislature and Sheriffs will follow CDCR’s lead and abolish co-payments and stop charging for things like dentures in jails too.”

We thank the Governor for signing this important legislation.