House OKs medical parole option for frail prisoners

Categories: News,Pagel News,VerHeulen News

Low-risk inmates could be moved to appropriate facilities


The Michigan House today approved legislation allowing low-risk, medically frail inmates to complete their sentences in licensed care facilities.

The House approved bills 5078, 5079, and 5081 introduced by state Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, chair of the House Committee on Appropriations; Rep. Dave Pagel, R-Oronoko Township, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections; and Rep. Rob VerHeulen, R-Walker, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Prisoners who would qualify for consideration are those with a severe physical or mental disability and considered a minimal threat to society.

Rep. Pscholka said licensed care facilities can offer a more concentrated care for an aging prison population.

“We have about 120 prisoners in Michigan who could potentially qualify for medical parole. This is a population that will continue to grow as our prisoners age and their health needs become more complex. We have to find a way to compassionately and responsibly deliver medical care which the state is legally required to provide.”

Rep. Pagel, sponsor of HB 5079, said once the medical parole is approved by the parole board, prisoners who are moved to qualified care facilities will stay at the facilities for a time not less than their minimum sentence.

“Their statuses will change, but not their sentences,” Rep. Pagel said. “We have taken precautions to set up a process for paroling these individuals and offer a more compassionate treatment while still protecting public safety.”

Rep VerHeulen, who introduced HB 5081, said safeguards will be put in place for anyone who assists a medically frail prisoner in leaving a care facility or is involved in other criminal activity.

“We will continue to make public safety a primary consideration when placing parolees in appropriate facilities,” Rep. VerHeulen said. “We will take every measure necessary to ensure individuals with misguided intentions do not interfere with a safe medical parole.”

Rep. Pscholka said the policy is not only humane treatment of ailing prisoners, it also could result in placing taxpayer money where it can better protect the public.

“Medically frail prisoners’ health care can cost three to five times more than other prisoners. If we can qualify medically frail prisoners for Medicaid dollars, the money we are currently spending on medical care could be used for programs that reduce recidivism or address dangerous convicts who actually pose a threat to the public.”

The bills now go to the Senate for consideration.