State to spend $30 million on prison health program
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department will spend $31 million to hire 10,000 prison health workers and upgrade its medical equipment in response to a spike in inmate deaths, including deaths at the hands of staff.
The move, first reported by the Associated Press, comes as President Donald Trump and his deputies continue to investigate the deaths of inmates in federal facilities in Arizona and Texas.
The Justice Department said Thursday that the funds would be used to hire a team of more than 100 health care professionals, which would begin hiring in September.
In the first six months of 2018, there were 1,566 inmate deaths at U.S. prisons, the highest number since the agency began tracking them in 1996, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
A total of 3,936 inmate deaths occurred in the last six months in 2017.
The number of inmates killed by prison guards has been rising in recent years.
On Thursday, Trump said he would ask for an investigation into the deaths.
“We need to figure out how this got to the point where we have these inmates dying in our prisons, and we have no idea what happened,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News.
As part of the inquiry, the department will hold a public hearing, the Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.
It will also provide an update on how it is responding to the rising number of inmate deaths and the department is making investments in its capacity to provide quality health care and training to inmates, the statement said.
After the hearing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters, “It’s not a new thing.
We know that there are problems with our prison health system and the way it’s been operating.
We want to get to the bottom of it.
We’ll continue to do that.”
Trump said earlier this week that he had requested the funding because of the deaths, calling it an “appalling situation” and urging Congress to make corrections more expensive.
Trump has called for a review of the agency’s handling of the inmates deaths.
He has said that the Justice Departments leadership has not been responsive to his requests.
Last year, Trump ordered the firing of U.K. prisons chief Dr. Andrew Smith and his deputy, who resigned after two inmates died at the facility.
The agency’s chief of staff resigned and Smith was reinstated.