Postmaster: If undeliverable, send Form 3579 to The Texas Observer, 307 W. 7th St., Austin, Texas 78701 POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE THIS CELL FOR RENT. “Texas right now is the only state in the nation that has beds to rent.” So says Ben Griego, and he’s not talking about homes for the homeless, at least not explicitly. Griego is director of offender services for the Colorado Department of Corrections, and he’s quoted in a July 16 article, “Other states renting counties’ jail space,” by Dave Harmon of The Fort Worth Star -Telegram. Harmon describes the predicament of many Texas counties and their jails, which had come to rely financially on reimbursements from the state for inmate overflow from state prisons. After a two-year, $1.5 billion prison building program which has nearly doubled the number of state prison beds officials are now “repossessing” prisoners they had previously housed in county jails in return for reimbursements \($35 per day Indeed, many smaller counties had built additional prison space to handle the state overload and have come to depend on state monies as, in effect, underwriting county “jobs” programs. Enterprising county officials have begun to look elsewhere, according to Harmon, and “cash-strapped communities are competing for multi-million dollar con-tracts with inmate-laden states from Utah to Virginia.” Bigger counties like Tarrant and Dallas \(which can market larger, the act, as are the private prison development corporations like Austin-based BRG Inc. BRG has entered the “inmate place ment” business, as a broker for 10 states looking for rental space in Texas prisons. It does not appear that the prospective inmates-for-rent will get a cut of their cash value on the free market. WANT HEALTH INSURANCE? CHECK YOUR FRIENDS. According to a report just released by the Texas Office of Public Insurance Counsel, your “social environment, reputation and income” may all be reviewed by a prospective insurer before they will agree to sell you a health insurance policy. Kevin O’Hanlon, writing for the Associated Press July 16, reported that nearly one quarter of 100 insurance companies studied by OPICnearly 90 percent of the Texas marketrely upon these and other factors “not demonstrably related to [health] risk” in deciding whether or not to issue a policy. However, if you’re refused you may never know why. An insurer is required to tell applicants why they were turned down, but consumer advocates say that often the “reason” is simply a generic “you were turned down because of our underwriting guidelines.” Industry spokesman Bob Blevins criticized the report as badly designed, but also insisted that reputation and other factors tions for insurability. He didn’t say if prospective customers note “I’m a thief’ on their applications. LET THEM EAT MORTAR. As this issue went to press, representatives of ADAPT, a grassroots disability rights group based in Austin, issued a challenge to the Texas Department of Human Services, the Health and Human Services Commission and the Legislative Budget Board to “redirect money from nursing homes, prison construction, and buildings for legislative staff to people in need o community care services.” According to ADAPT, DHS staff in a board meeting to be held July 21 will propose “freezing” all non-Medicaid programs by September 1, 1995, as a consequence of $100 million underfunding of DHS Community Car programs by the Texas legislature this year. ADAPT says the cuts will hit particularly hard at thousands of Texans wi disabilities and over the next two years will shut down numerous DHS programs: Adult Foster Care, In-Home and Famil Support, Meals on Wheels and Client Managed and Shared Attendant Services among other programs. Jennifer McPhail of ADAPT called at tention to the new $40 million legislativ staff building planned for downtow Austin and called for a review of the stat budget to redirect monies to communit care. “Bricks and mortar, construction job and nursing home profits seem more im portant than people’s lives,” McPhail said “It’s a shame.” 24 JULY 28, 1995
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