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Some seriously ill, elderly inmates could be paroled and placed in hospitals, nursing homes

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed bills into law that will permit some medically frail and seriously ill inmates to be paroled.

They will be cared for in hospitals, hospices, and nursing homes instead. That means Medicare and Medicaid will pay for the inmates' care, rather than state taxpayer dollars.

Chris Gautz is a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections. 

He says it will also be better for the released offenders, who could be struggling with severe mental illness, or be confined to wheelchairs or bedridden with conditions such as end-stage Alzheimer's or terminal cancer.

"They can be better treated, more humanely," says Gautz. "They'd have more access to their family, they can go to the nursing home and not wait until they're on their death bed before they get a visit."

Gautz says people with sentences of life in prison without parole won't qualify for parole, nor will those convicted of first degree criminal sexual conduct and some other violent felonies.

He says the law is narrowly tailored, so the number of inmates initially released into the care of a hospital, hospice, or nursing home will be about 20.

About 400 to 500 others could also be eligible later on. Gautz says it's hoped the law could be expanded to include other severely ill inmates, once the program proves it is not a threat to public safety.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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