Written by attorney Jeremy S Geigle

Medical Parole Law Makes Some Prisoners Eligible for Early Release

The medical parole law was put into effect in CA on January 1, 2011 and was meant to reduce the amount of money spent on prisoners who required extensive medical care. According to data taken from California, it costs approximately $10,600 every year to treat incapacitated inmates. For prisoners who receive care at correctional treatment centers, the amount spent increases to $1.35 million. The annual price of overtime guards who watched and transported sick inmates reached an approximate $132 million. This law is expected to save taxpayers an eventual $200 million.

A board will decide which prisoners will be released on parole; the only inmates who are eligible are not serving death or life without parole prison sentences, require around-the-clock care, and are considered “permanently medically incapacitated." Once released, if the prisoner’s medical condition improves or they violate the terms of their probation, they can be placed back behind bars. Before a prisoner is considered for release, the parole board must determine whether or not they would prove an unreasonable risk to the public.

The medical parole law differs from the “compassionate release" law which allows the release of a prisoner if they are expected to die within 6 months because of a terminal illness. Out of the 1,183 California inmates who have applied for compassionate release, only 348 have succeeded.

Though the prisoners who will be released under the medical parole law will likely qualify for public heath assistance programs, it is estimated that the state will still save money because the federal government pays half of the public assistance costs. However, if a prisoner does not qualify for such a program and their family cannot pay for it, the state will be responsible, but transportation and personnel costs will still be eliminated.

In Arizona, a prisoner who is not sentenced to natural life or death can be eligible for release on medical parole if that prisoner has been examined by a licensed physician and has received a written diagnosis that includes the following:

  1. A prognosis addressing the likelihood of their recovery from their disease, syndrome, or physical condition.
  2. A determination that the prisoner suffers from an incapacitating disease, syndrome, or physical condition.
  3. A description of the disease, syndrome, or physical condition and a detailed description of their physical incapacity.

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