Sick and Aging Prison Inmates; Current Care, Possible Changes

Inmate Sean Reese, a Vacaville prison hospice volunteer, helps a patient in the documentary "Life in Prison" by Lonny Shavelson.

The state Assembly is expected to vote by this Friday on a bill that would permit medical probation for county jail inmates. Under medical probation, inmates who are terminally ill or so physically incapacitated that they require 24-hour care would be released from jail.

A 2010 law already permits medical probation for prison inmates. If passed, this new law would extend medical probation to inmates at county jails. As the Bay Citizen reports:

The bill comes as the state’s new policy known as realignment brings tens of thousands of low-level felons who would have served time in state prison to county jails, burdening the county with costs of caring for very sick inmates.

Many of the prisoners who receive medical parole are bedridden, and officials say they pose no threat to others.

Since the (2010) law went into effect, according to Joyce Hayhoe, legislative director for California Correctional Health Care Services, 42 inmates have been approved for medical parole and seven have been denied of a total of 49 who have had hearings.

Journalist Lonny Shavelson gained rare access to the Vacaville prison hospice — the first prison hospice in the country — and produced this short, powerful documentary for the Center for Investigative Reporting.

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