California – Beginning in 2011, California will establish a medical parole program for inmates who are comatose and physically incapacitated on a permanent basis. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger passed the bill, SB 1399 by Sen. Mark Leno, into law on September 29, 2010.
In a state of financial crisis, California has been seeking ways to reduce spending with a number of legislation initiatives involving the prison system. Currently, California houses the highest prison population in the United States and spends approximately $11,000 per inmate on healthcare (compared to $2,750 spent per inmate on healthcare in Texas). SB 1399 is projected to save the state approximately $46 million annually.
The medical parole bill exempts any inmate who has been sentenced to death, life without parole or those sentenced under the Three-Strikes-Law. The bill will include a screening process to make sure that public safety is not jeopardized by the early release of inmates. Thus far, California has identified 32 candidates for the program whose average annual healthcare and guard costs total almost 2 million per person.
Says Sen. Mark Leno, “I would rather keep 100 school teachers employed than continue to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on incarcerating 10 severely incapacitated inmates. Across the nation, 36 states, including Texas, have medical parole programs for inmates who are so seriously ill that they could not possibly threaten public safety. Especially given our fiscal crisis, it is time for California to do the same.”