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Life in Prison: A Look Inside The California Medical Facility

To anyone approaching the gates, the California Medical Facility (CMF) in Vacaville looks like your average prison. It is surrounded by cyclone, barbed wire fencing monitored by guards and a watch tower. But once inside, it becomes clear this prison population is different. In a waiting area, four elderly men sit in wheelchairs; one is slumped over sleeping. It could be a scene from a typical nursing home, if it weren't for the prison jumpsuits the men are wearing. Other prisoners move throughout the building in wheelchairs and use canes. Some look weak and shuffle slowly down the corridor.

CMF is the primary location for delivering heath care services to elderly and sick prisoners in the California prison system. The prison has a medical unit and a 17-bed, state-licensed hospice. As the elderly inmate population continues to grow, due to determinate sentencing and three strike laws, so too have the health care needs of California's incarcerated. Last year, it cost the state $1.9 billion to provide health care to the prison population, which is almost 20 percent of the entire corrections budget.

The Project Envision documentary, "Life in Prison," will air Jan. 25 at 9 p. m. on KPBS Television.

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Avatar for user 'BrendaReyes'

BrendaReyes | July 6, 2010 at 8:52 p.m. ― 6 years, 8 months ago

I just happened on this story and it made me so very sad. My son is 29 years old and has been in prison since he was 14 years old. I have always thought he would get out someday and after hearing this story I am just sick. It seems it doesn't matter what he does, he just won't get out. I wish I knew how to help change things. Brenda Reyes

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