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California Medical Parole Law Awaits Implementation

| March 3, 2011

According to this Los Angeles Times article, “permanently medically incapacitated inmates” are costing Californians more than $50 million this year, despite a medical parole bill passed just last year. Governor Schwarzenegger said the bill, which allows medical parole for inmates requiring constant medical attention, could reduce prison health care spending by up to $200 million, but the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has yet to schedule one parole hearing. Meanwhile, department policy can require two or more corrections officers to be with the inmates at all times.

The medical parole bill replaces the former “compassionate release” regime, which, unlike the parole system, was legally equivalent to a completed prison sentence. The new system is a better one—potentially shifting medical costs to families who are able to pay—but complex regulations have hampered implementation of the law.

The Board of Parole Hearings is required to approve all medical releases, and inmates sentenced without the opportunity for parole are not eligible. Nevertheless, up to 1,000 inmates might eventually be eligible for medical parole under the new law.

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