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Medically frail inmates bill heads to the governor

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Supporters of the new legislation argue that the current medical parole law is so restrictive that only one person since 2019 has received parole under it

A bill to expand access to medical parole in Michigan is going to the governor. That’s after it passed the state House Wednesday night.

Under the legislation, people in prison who are seriously disabled or terminally ill with a life expectancy under 18 months could potentially receive parole.

State Senator Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) said it’s important for both incarcerated people and their families.

“It’s a reminder of the compassion and the humanity of people who, yes, they’re serving a sentence for violating a law or several possibly but that we still need to be understanding of where they are at their end of life,” Geiss said.

Michigan law already provides an opportunity for medical parole. However, supporters of the new legislation argue it’s so restrictive that only one person since 2019 has received parole under it.

Unlike the current law, the new proposal would allow medically frail people in prison the chance to be released to home care, rather than a facility.

The bill passed both chambers with some bipartisan support, but some Republicans have criticized the legislation.

State Senator Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) said he likes the idea, but the bill should do more to evaluate someone’s risk ahead of their release.

“If I had the average person here and I said, ‘Well, we’re going to release a potentially very violent person because they’ve been given 18 months to live by a doctor, do you think we should do a risk assessment?’ I think they’d say yes,” Runestad said.

Ahead of the bill’s vote in the Senate in early June, Runestad unsuccessfully tried to add language to the bill that would require parolees who recover to go back to prison.

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