Calif. Senate OKs bill to release sickest inmates

Posted on June 3, 2010. Filed under: Crime, Parole, Politics |

By DON THOMPSON Associated Press Writer

Posted: 06/02/2010 04:09:45 PM PDT

Updated: 06/02/2010 05:13:57 PM PDT
SACRAMENTO, Calif.—California’s sickest inmates would be released on medical parole to shave millions of dollars from the spiraling prison budget under a bill approved Wednesday by the state Senate.The measure would let the parole board send severely disabled inmates to outside facilities without posting guards around the clock.

The move also would result in federal insurance programs paying more of the cost of the inmates’ care.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said his bill could save California $200 million annually.

It was sought by a federal court-appointed receiver who controls prison medical care after lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed cutting $811 million in inmate health care costs.

Prison spending now consumes 11 percent of the state’s general fund, more than California’s two public four-year university systems.

Leno’s SB1399 passed 21-13 and now goes to the Assembly.

Leno, said many of those who would qualify would be comatose, paralyzed or permanently disabled. His bill excludes those facing the death penalty or life without parole. If a parolee’s health improves, the person could be returned to prison.

“This is of no risk to public safety,” Leno said.

Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, countered that definitions in the bill were written so broadly that they could include inmates who are less seriously ill.

Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, said opponents of the move were confusing revenge and public safety.  “We take a guy who’s in a coma and we say, ‘you’re going to stay in prison.’ Frankly, he doesn’t know where he is,” Wright said. “Why are we having people watch him lay in a hospital medical bed?”


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