Gov. Gavin Newsome has signed a bill increasing the chance for elderly and ill prisoners to obtain a compassionate release.
The measure, SB 118, provides those incarcerated who have been diagnosed with a condition which is determined to either result in death or incapacitation to the point of an inability to perform the activities of basic daily living, may be released under Compassionate Release to live out the remainder of their lives in the community.
The new law amends Penal Code Section 1170. It says the time an individual may have remaining to live has been extended from six months to one year. This bill also changes the process and streamlines release by removing the necessity of approval by the Board of Prison Terms. These modifications are effective Jan. 1, 2022.
Much of the language of Section 1170 remains the same as before. The process begins with the primary care doctor notifying the chief medical officer of those in an incapacitated state. The requirement includes coma, persistent vegetative state, brain death, ventilator-dependency, loss of control of muscular or neurological function, or other incapacitating conditions that did not exist at the time of the original sentencing, and for those diagnosed with a life-ending condition within one year.
If the chief medical officer agrees, this information is handed to the warden’s office. Within 48 hours, the prisoner shall be notified of the recall and resentencing procedures, and arrangements can be made with a designated family member or another outside agent to be notified as to the prisoner’s medical condition and prognosis.
This then goes to the secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. If it is determined that the prisoner satisfies the criteria, the secretary may recommend to the court that the prisoner’s sentence be recalled, and submit a recommendation for release within 30 days.
The warden’s office shall provide the prisoner and their family member, agent, or emergency contact, updated information throughout the recall and resentencing process about the prisoner’s medical condition and the status of the prisoner’s recall and resentencing proceedings.
Also, the prisoner or a family member or designee may independently request consideration for recall and resentencing by contacting the chief medical officer at the prison or the secretary.
Wherever possible, the same judge from the county of commitment, who conducted the sentencing, shall have the case. If the court grants the re-sentencing, the prisoner shall be released within 48 hours. The exceptions remain that the condemned and those who are serving life without possibility of parole do not qualify.