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Very ill inmates could be paroled under House bill

Razor wire on top of chain-link fence.
Robert Hickerson

The state House has adopted bills that would allow prisoners in advanced stages of illness including cancer and dementia to be paroled for medical reasons.

The House split on the bills with Republicans and Democrats voting on both sides of the issue.

State Representative Dave Pagel, R-Oronoko Twp., says medical parole would only be for inmates who can’t be cared for outside a hospital or nursing home.

“Prisoners who are unable to carry out some of the basic functions of daily life, like moving, feeding themselves, dressing themselves,” he said. “This is extreme medical frailty.”

Pagel says keeping those inmates inside prison walls makes it difficult to provide appropriate care, and is much more expensive.

Inmates convicted of first degree murder or rape would not be eligible.

State Representative Pam Faris, D-Clio, a former probation worker, was a “no” vote.  She said paroling inmates before their earliest release date breaks a deal with victims.

“It’s not always about saving the state of Michigan money,” she said. “It’s about fairness, and I think that fairness and my compassion goes to the victims and the families of these 

Faris says the governor already has the power to commute prison sentences for medical reasons.

The state Department of Corrections says there are between 40 and 60 prisoners who would be eligible for medical parole. The department also expects medical costs to rise as the prison population ages.

The bills now go to the state Senate.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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