The Board also conducts medical parole hearings for inmates who suffer from a significant and permanent condition, disease, or syndrome, resulting in the inmate being physically or cognitively debilitated or incapacitated. Eligibility under this program was initially established in 2011 by Penal Code section 3550 and later expanded in 2014 under an order from the Three-Judge Panel in the Plata/Coleman class action litigation. The resulting medical parole hearing process is commonly referred to as expanded medical parole.
A medical parole hearing is a hearing to determine if an inmate who is permanently medically incapacitated should be placed in a licensed health care facility in the community. The Department and the California Correctional Health Care Services determine who is referred to the Board for an expanded medical parole hearing.
Inmates Eligible for an Expanded Medical Parole Hearing
Inmates who meet certain criteria to be eligible for referral to the Board for an expanded medical parole hearing. First, the head physician of the institution where the inmate is housed determines whether the inmate suffers from a significant and permanent medical condition resulting in the inmate being permanently medically incapacitated. Additionally, the inmate must be unable to perform one or more activities of basic daily living such that the inmate qualifies for placement in a licensed health care facility in the community. Inmates serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole or serving a death sentence are not eligible for expanded medical parole.
When Inmates Are Considered for Expanded Medical Parole
Medical personnel at the prison where the inmate is housed, the inmate, or the inmate’s family or attorney may request that the inmate’s primary care physician in prison consider the person for expanded medical parole at any time. The primary care physician’s assessment will be considered by both the chief medical executive and the classification and parole representative at the institution where the person is housed when determining if the person should be referred to the Board.
Expanded Medical Parole Hearing
Expanded medical parole hearings are conducted like parole suitability hearings, with a few exceptions. First, expanded medical parole hearings can be conducted without the person present. The person may attend, but the Board may conduct the hearing without the person present. Second, the standard the Board applies is whether the person will pose an unreasonable risk to public safety if placed in a licensed health care facility in the community.
If a person is denied medical parole, he or she will not automatically be scheduled for another medical parole hearing in the future. However, the person, his or her family or attorney, or a prison health care staff member may refer the person to the Board again after six months.
If a hearing panel approves a person’s release to medical parole, the panel’s approval is conditioned upon California Correctional Health Care Services identifying a licensed health care facility that meets the requirements identified by the hearing panel. The hearing panel will specify facility requirements it finds necessary for the person to be safely placed in the community. The panel may also condition the person’s placement on his or her compliance with a variety of other requirements such as medical evaluations, compliance with nursing facility rules, and restrictions on communication with specified persons.
All other parole suitability hearing procedures established by the Board not impacted by the provisions outlined above are applied to expanded medical parole hearings, including appointment of counsel, and all applicable hearing notifications, including notice to law enforcement, the district attorney’s office that prosecuted the inmate, and notice to victims and victims’ family members who have registered with the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services.
If a person is approved for expanded medical parole and is placed in a licensed health care facility in the community, the CDCR and California Correctional Health Care Services will monitor the person’s medical condition and behavior while he or she is placed in a licensed health care facility. In the event the person shows significant improvements in his or her medical condition, such that he or she is no longer eligible for expanded medical parole, the person will be removed from expanded medical parole and returned to prison.
Referrals and Approvals
Between January 1, 2011 and September 9, 2020, the Board conducted 271 medical parole hearings, 208 of which were conducted under the expanded medical parole program. The Board has approved 183 inmates for medical parole and denied 88.