In the mid-'90s, Alaska decided to house its convicts in a private prison in Arizona. Families of inmates weren't pitied by many when they protested the distance. The travel expense was burdensome, and some actually moved to be closer. A few years ago, the state found a cheaper private prison -- $6-a-day-per-inmate cheaper -- in Colorado. A few of the relocated families moved yet again.
We know that recidivism rates are affected by the family and support network for a newly released inmate. Recidivism is expensive and burdens the court system. Buying plane tickets to send someone to and from Colorado, not to mention his law enforcement escort, is expensive. (You may have seen them on your own flights, usually in the back row.) It's hard to know if we're really saving money. But hey, so long as the prison is profiting and filling politicians' campaign coffers, who cares?
Whenever the state comes up with a plan to save money, I have to wonder.
My Mom and Pop are both retired school teachers with many decades of service between them. They were quite aware of the Parnell administration's announcement this week that the state may start requiring public employees and retirees to travel out of state for cheaper health care.
"Does he want us to just die? It's like we're being treated like the prisoners they fly out of here."
Some people have little, if any, compassion for those that wind up on the wrong side of the law, let alone their families. But what about the retired teacher who breaks his leg in a car accident? Or the trooper with chronic back pain? Or the fireman who acquired a rare cancer after decades of breathing toxic fumes? Or the biologist who needs knee replacement surgery after years of chasing wildlife?
Men and women, who served our state before it was easy to live here, deserve better. They did good work and built their homes and communities. They traded years of nine-month winters for solid incomes and a retirement that included decent health care.
My mother's cancer has profoundly affected my family. Her treatment has been a long-term tribal and communal process. Driving to appointments, pretending my magazine article is interesting while watching as chemicals are pumped through a shunt in her heart, is important -- for both of us. I'm not just dropping her off at the airport and hoping she remembers how to flag a cab on the other end. Immune-suppressed people really don't need to be confined to a metal tube with more germs than a playground.
What kind of rug is Parnell yanking?
Oh, that's right. We have to save money (so we can give it to oil companies).
For a governor so concerned about finances, it's confusing that he has turned down every opportunity to save money on health care for our state. A year ago, he was the only governor in the country to refuse federal money that would have set up mandatory health exchanges. The pool could have included himself and every other state employee, resulting in even more savings.
In case you're worried about him, the governor and his family have government-provided health care. We pay for it. Oh, and the prisoners? They're the only Alaskans who actually have constitutionally guaranteed health care.
Oh, wait. That federal money could be a trick to lure us out on a limb. It's not strange for the feds to set up health care plans. President Bush spent a billion dollars setting up single-payer health care in Iraq.
OK, so can we pay for our own? I think we could probably scare up a million dollars in Juneau -- it's about the cost of one unsuccessful special session.
But will we do it? No, that idea is headed where so many go to die: "We're doing a study."
Here's the real deal, folks. Parnell wants to be a big shot to conservatives. I don't mean the conservatives who think deficits are bad -- they've got a point. I mean the ones who hoard bullets and think Jesus was a lefty when it came to poor people.
Gov. Parnell, it must be easy for you to tell people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when you were born wearing hip waders. Stop the political posturing over something that shouldn't be politicized. If you don't like the federal government, then come up with solutions instead of stalling and suing. Stop scaring good and decent people that they'll have to fly outside to see a doctor. Some of them are the same people who tried to teach you better in school.
Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 6 to 9 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM and 95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show can be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. statewide on ABC affiliate KYUR Anchorage, KATN Fairbanks and KJUD Juneau.
By SHANNYN MOORE