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Early parole for medically Frail inmates: Community leaders discuss the impacts

Senate Bill 599 adjusts to Public Act 13 enacted back in 2019
Posted at 8:32 PM, Jul 02, 2024
  • Senate bill 599 will allow medically frail prisoners to be released on medical parole.
  • The bill has added changes from a bill passed in 2019 that changes the definition of what a medically frail person is and the places they can go.
  • Video show community leaders discussing the impacts it could have on our neighbors.

"Is this the right setting for someone to be in if they have that type of medical frailty?"
A bill on its way to Governor Gretchen Whitmer's office will allow prisoners deemed medically frail to get treatment outside of prisons. Leaders in our community talked about the impacts it will have for our neighbors.

"This is going to get worse if it isn't addressed."

Jazmine Wells advocates for prison reform with Safe and Just Michigan.

"Medically frail people are, by definition, people who are terminally ill or mentally or physically incapacitated," Wells said.

She says that due to the increasing number of medically frail inmates due to age, state prisons will need to use more of the general fund to treat and care for weak inmates.

Kyle Kaminski, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Correction, says that Senate Bill 599 changes the definition of a medically frail person and the places they could go after being paroled.

The original legislation, Public Act 13, passed in 2019, didn't give the result they were looking for

"The way the definitions worked and some of the other challenges with that law, we were able to only parole one person under it," Kaminski said.

Under the bill, medically frail means that a person is a low threat to society, not violent, and has at least one of the following:

  • a condition that prevents someone from walking, standing, or sitting without assistance,
  • a terminal illness given less than a year-and-a-half to live,
  • or a disabling mental disorder that needs nursing home-level care.

But that doesn't mean just anyone qualifies.
"Those serving a life sentence, those serving for criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, they can't even be considered under this law," Kaminski said.

There is also an extensive process to reaching parole, including health evaluations, parole board hearings, and even an appeals process for victims and prosecutors.

However, another point in the bill raises some concerns for law enforcement.

"If the condition of which the person received parole no longer existed, that person is no longer required to report that information to the parole board."

David Pfannes is the Deputy Director of the Michigan Association of Sheriffs and says the organization does not oppose medically frail parole but believes transparency is key for public safety.

"If the person, for example, no longer suffered from the ailment that gave them the release, then we thought it should be reassessed," Pfannes said.

Ultimately, it's about utilizing better resources and lowering the costs for our neighbors.

"Medically frail parole promotes better placement options and lower costs for the state of Michigan," Wells said.

Governor Whitmer has the ability to veto the bill instead of creating it into law when it arrives at her desk.

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