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Conn. Lawmakers to Place Sick Prisoners in Local Nursing Home

In the midst of passing massive gun control legislation in the Nutmeg state, Connecticut lawmakers plan on moving sick prison inmates to a nursing home in Rocky Hill.  Although some Connecticut state legislators appear confident the inmates will not be a threat to the neighborhood,  State Sen. John Kissel (R - Enfield) is not buying it.

"What if it was your mom or dad or grandparents in this nursing facility and one whole wing is dedicated towards prisoners?" Kissel told the CT Mirror in February. He added that the kinds of crimes the inmates were convicted of would make a difference. If there were 25 convicted murderers in a facility, he said, "I don't care how old they are, I would not feel good about it." : 

Kissel said having a separate facility dedicated to parolees would cause fewer concerns, although he said 95 beds is a lot and could raise questions about location, staffing and security.

"I don't care if they're 80 years old," he said. "They're incarcerated for a reason."

Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, said it could make fiscal sense to have people with significant health issues receive care in lower-cost settings. The state currently spends just under $100 million on health care for prisoners, a figure that's drawn scrutiny from lawmakers.

But Miner said it will be critical for the plans to be clearly disclosed and explained so people understand what's happening in their communities.

"I try not to be an alarmist, but I do think there are a lot of reasons for concern and a lot of hope that if done the right way, it can save the state some money, allow us to, as Secretary [Benjamin] Barnes said, rebalance this asset of a nursing home in some other productive way, and not upset the community in which they exist," he said.

Miner likened the situation to group homes opening in communities. In some cases, it worked well, with no tension, while in other cases, it didn't go as well, the result, Miner said, of not having the communication to make neighbors understand what was happening.

The state is going go to fight for placing the inmates in the 95 bed facility for supposedly old and sickly criminals whether Rocky Hill residents or the rest of Connecticut likes it or not. At this point, the decision may come down  to whether or not the incarcerated group living at the nursing home will be referred to as "prisoners." 

The Hartford Courant reported that Connecticut Gov. Dannell P. Malloy's administration says that once the "patients" move into the nursing home, they are not prisoners and would qualify for medical benefits. However, State Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, and state Sen. Paul A. Doyle, D-Wethersfield, claim the patients  would remain under 24-hour security in locked wards, unable to leave the facility.:

Doyle and Guerrera had written to U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Christopher Murphy and Congressman John Larson in February, asking for clarification on whether privately run facilities for prisoners would qualify for Medicare reimbursement.

The response, dated March 7, reads in part: "According to [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services], Medicare does not reimburse for services provided to wards of state or federal prison systems. Skilled nursing facilities that provide residential care to incarcerated individuals do not qualify for participation in the Medicare program.

"When CMS receives information that a certified facility is providing care to an incarcerated person, the agency evaluates the facility on a case-by-case basis."

"Now I am even more concerned,'' Guerrera said Wednesday. "The answer comes back to the question I've asked all along. The claim is it isn't a prison. The question is, 'Can they walk away from the nursing home?' The answer is no."

Malloy administration official Michael Lawlor argues the prisoners' statuses can be compared to the many parolees currently on probation in halfway houses. "If they weren't sick, they would have been released a long time ago," he told the Courant. Such assurances mean little, particularly after it was revealed the 2007 rape and murder of a Connecticut woman and her two daughters at their Cheshire home was committed by two paroled burglars.  Immediately following the gruesome triple murder, gun sales in Connecticut rocketed. Both men are now on death row. 


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