Finance panel OKs another $7.1 million for prison care

The Legislature’s finance committee is giving the Department of Corrections more money to cover prisoner health care.

The agency was budgeted $80.6 million in fiscal year 2017-18 to inmate health care but now expects to spend $90.7 million thanks to rising drug costs, more hospital visits for the prison system’s aging inmate population and rising contract nurse costs.

To help cover the shortfall DOC earlier this month asked the finance committee to transfer $5.3 million from the agency’s contract beds account and $1.8 million from a fund that covers services for drunken driving offenders. Both accounts are projected to have surpluses.

The agency expects to fill the rest of the deficit by reallocating expenditures and with salary savings from vacant positions.

The finance committee approved the transfers Wednesday 11-4.