California To Begin Paroling More Elderly, Medically Frail Inmates
On Monday, California parole officials said the state is prepared to begin the early release of elderly and medically frail prison inmates in an effort to comply with a court-mandated order to reduce state prison overcrowding, the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" reports (St. John, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 6/16).
In 2006, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that federal oversight of the state prison system was needed after determining that an average of one inmate per week died as a result of medical malpractice or neglect.
However, judges in February granted California two additional years to reduce the prison population, extending the deadline to Feb. 28, 2016. The judges said no additional delays will be granted.
Under the ruling, the state will not be allowed to increase the number of California inmates housed in out-of-state correctional facilities.
In response to the ruling, the state said it would work to reduce prison overcrowding over the next two years in part by:
- Making about 350 nonviolent second-offenders eligible for parole after half of their sentence is served;
- Releasing nearly 1,600 inmates who meet certain criteria, such as having medical problems or being at least 60 years old and having served 25 years or more of their sentence; and
- Accelerating good-time credits for nonviolent offenders (California Healthline, 4/30).
Details of Planned Early Releases
During a meeting of the Board of Parole Hearings on Monday, details of the expanded parole program were released for the first time.
Officials said that inmates ages 60 and older who have served at least 25 years of their sentence will be eligible for early release, unless they are sentenced to death or serving life without parole. Hearings for early release under the new elderly parole rules will begin in October, according to the board.
In addition, inmates who have medical conditions that require skilled nursing care will be eligible for admission to health care facilities. However, those who recover will be sent back to prison. Hearings under the expanded medical parole rules will begin by July 1, according to a board attorney.
Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) administration estimated that:
- 85 inmates would meet criteria for the expanded elderly parole; and
- About 100 inmates would be eligible for the expanded medical parole ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 6/16).