Medical parole reform passes off Senate floor

Mike Seals - March 10, 2021 3:35 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – A measure reforming criteria for applicants seeking medical parole received full Senate approval Wednesday. Senate Bill 320, by Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, provides for the medically frail and vulnerable to receive consideration in medical parole proceedings, also known as compassionate release.

“Our prisons are at 107% capacity. In addition, Oklahoma’s prison population is aging quickly with many over 65—a large portion of that group has medical conditions that prevent them from being able to take care of themselves on a daily basis. This puts them in danger, causes more work for already understaffed prisons and is a tremendous cost to the state,” Garvin said. “This is fiscally responsible legislation that creates commonsense guidelines for who can apply for compassionate relief parole. Once an individual qualifies to apply, they still must go through a board review to determine if they should be released on parole. This is a much-needed change for these frail individuals and our prison system.”

SB 320 defines medically frail as someone who has a medical condition that prevents them from performing two or more activities of daily living independently.  It defines medically vulnerable as someone with one or more medical conditions that would make them more likely to contract an illness or disease while incarcerated that could lead to death or cause them to become medically frail. The measure specifies the medical conditions that place an individual in the medically vulnerable category.

“Oklahoma’s current medical parole statute has been interpreted to mean that only those near death or dying can be considered for early release, leaving behind a large population of individuals with chronic, debilitating illnesses who are no longer a threat to public safety,” Garvin said.

According to DOC, only 12 people in Oklahoma’s prison system were granted medical parole in 2020.

A medical determination will remain a three-step process with a prison medical provider and DOC’s director and medical director all agreeing on the assessment. The DOC director would then request that a person be added to the medical parole docket before the Pardon and Parole Board (PPB).

Garvin said she worked with law enforcement, district attorney’s and judges along with DOC officials in drafting the bill.  SB 320 will next be considered in the House.

For more information, contact:  Sen. Jessica Garvin: (405) 521-5522 or [email protected]

 

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