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How some jails avoid medical bills through "medical bond"

The Santa Barbara County Detention and Correctional Facility.
The Santa Barbara County Detention and Correctional Facility. Photo David McNew/Getty Images

Sheriffs across Alabama are relying on what's known as "medical bond" to avoid paying for inmates' hospital bills, ProPublica reports.

How it works: Jails release the inmates from custody when they need medical care. This includes treatment that is only necessary because an inmate didn't receive adequate care while incarcerated. After they're treated, some inmates are quickly rearrested and head back to jail.

The big picture: ProPublica and AL.com reviewed media reports of sheriffs using these medical bonds in 25 states.

Between the lines: Medical care is expensive, and county budgets are often strained. But regardless of any ethical or legal concerns this approach raises, it doesn't just make these health care costs go away — it inevitably forces someone else to foot the bill.

Go deeper: The states where private prisons are thriving