California is implementing a new policy of only granting medical parole to those so ill they need to be hooked to ventilators in order to breathe, according to The Associated Press.
Only those on ventilators are being placed in the community, according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson Dana Simas.
Quadriplegics, paraplegics and permanently incapacitated prisoners who were already granted medical parole may be sent from nursing homes back to prison.
“It’d be an awful shame if those people were returned to prison,” Steve Fama, an attorney with the Prison Law Office told the AP.
California prison officials blamed the change on new federal licensing requirements for nursing homes.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has created policies that take the position that parole officials can’t impose any conditions on prisoners in community medical facilities. This includes a rule that prisoners cannot leave the nursing facility except with permission from their parole agent. Prison officials say this restriction is necessary to ensure public safety.
Federal officials say that “revoking medical parole and putting incapacitated prisoners back behind bars is not the state’s only option.”
California could leave the prisoners in nursing homes with no prohibition on their leaving, or put them in facilities that aren’t regulated by the federal government — assisted living or non-certified skilled facilities that a state may wish to license to serve parolees who have additional health care needs.
Simas said this would require “establishing an entirely new program to monitor and audit the care provided at these facilities,” according to the AP.
The state’s decision will not affect those granted compassionate releases that are approved by a court. A compassionate release is usually granted to prisoners who are deemed by medical professionals to have less than a year to live.
Assemblyman Bill Ting authored a bill that would create an easier process for placing incapacitated prisoners in community health care facilities.
The bill also creates a new medical parole board at each prison for those who require hospice care or have debilitating pain or disease. Ting wants to eliminate the regular parole board, which consists largely of law enforcement officials, from this process.
“Limiting [medical parole] to only those on ventilators is arbitrary and not based on medical science,” Ting said. “Public safety is not improved by taking such an unnecessarily narrow view of this policy.”