More elderly and frail inmates in Oklahoma’s prisons could soon qualify for medical parole under legislation signed into law earlier this week.
Senate Bill 320, authored by Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, whose district includes western portions of Garvin County, will allow those offenders deemed medically frail or vulnerable to be considered for medical parole, also known as compassionate release.
“The criteria for medical parole is simply too strict in Oklahoma. Given that our elderly prison population is the fastest growing and most expensive to care for, allowing those who are no longer a threat to society and can’t take care of themselves is the commonsense and compassionate thing to do,” Garvin said.
“Last year, only 12 people in Oklahoma’s prison system were granted medical parole. This new law will get more medically frail and vulnerable individuals home where their families can better care for them.”
Garvin said she worked with the Department of Corrections (DOC), other law enforcement, district attorney’s and judges in crafting the measure.
Currently, only those near death or dying can be considered for early release under the medical parole program.
SB 320 defines medically frail as someone with 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 makes them more likely to contract an illness or disease while incarcerated that could lead to death or cause them to become medically frail.
Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, was the principal House author of the bill.
“Many people in our prison population are aging and medically fragile, and quite honestly we don’t have the state resources to properly care for them,” McEntire said.
“Some have served years of their sentence and they deserve to be considered for compassionate release, so their families or other caregivers can help provide for their needs.”
Medical determination will remain a three-step process with a prison medical provider and the Department of Correction’s (DOC) 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).
SB 320 will become effective on November 1, 2021.