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What is Medical Parole?

Parole Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

What is Medical Parole?

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The rapid spread of the Coronavirus has led to a lot of unexpected changes – state governments across the nation are telling citizens to stay at home. Kids are out of school, businesses are being told to close their doors and employees are being told to work from home.

A lot of these changes have been shocking, but more mind-blowing things are happening in Texas, too. Some local sheriffs are requesting that low-level offenders get released from jail to prevent a prison outbreak. Medical parole in Texas has been normalized for years, so does Coronavirus fall under this scope? Why would lawmakers and local law enforcement agencies be considering such a drastic step? Learn all the details below.

What is Medical Parole in Texas?

Most offenders in Texas will have the opportunity to go before the parole board to seek out early release from jail. During this meeting, the parole board looks at factors like the offender’s crime, their behavior while behind bars and their ties to the community. Parole is often granted based on good behavior, but sometimes it’s granted for medical reasons.

Medical parole is granted based on an inmate’s medical conditions. They’re usually medically evaluated before a decision is made. The parole board also considers whether the inmate would be a threat to public safety. Here are a few things that would make a medical parole release more likely:

  • The inmate is diagnosed with a significant cognitive condition
  • Whether the inmate will need assistance for daily living
  • The prisoner’s degree of mobility
  • The inmate’s life expectancy

If an offender is released on medical parole, then that doesn’t mean they’re off the hook completely. Specific conditions still must be met which usually means refraining from drug or alcohol use, getting a job, maintaining a relationship with a parole officer and obeying the law.

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Who is Eligible for Medical Parole in Texas?

It’s pretty difficult to get released through medical parole. To be eligible to apply, you must be suffering a life-threatening, very serious or debilitating condition. Even with these strict standards, about 66% of applications get denied in Texas 

If you think you or a loved one is eligible to apply for medical parole, then it’s crucial to reach out to an attorney. A lawyer can help you determine whether medical parole is an option and how to prove you or your loved one should get released.

Why Should the State Grant Medical Parole to Offenders? 

Medical parole in Texas is often referred to as compassionate parole. In the majority of cases, inmates seeking out medical parole have debilitating or life-threatening conditions. To put it bluntly, granted medical parole typically means letting the inmate return home for their final days.

On top of the humanitarian reasons for granting medical parole, it’s a good decision for prisons financially, too. The health care costs of taking care of an inmate are significant, especially as inmates get older. While this factor is important, the parole board does not take into account the financial burden of inmates when making medical parole decisions.

Why Some States Are Releasing Inmates During the COVID-19 Crisis

Things outside of prison have changed drastically due to the coronavirus pandemic. The World Health Organization announced the COVID-19 a pandemic mid-March. Within weeks, the U.S. started to report tens of thousands of cases. There have already been over 2,000 deaths in our country.

Sheriffs in Texas have started to attempt social distancing tactics of their own. Local law enforcement agencies are making the difficult decision to drastically reduce their jail population. Many lawmakers are also arguing that officers should immediately cease low-level non-violent arrests. 

On top of these conditions, the police would also do health screenings for inmates that get arrested during the worst of the outbreak. For many elderly Texan inmates, that means they’ll get granted medical parole! The elderly population, including inmates, are most vulnerable during the coronavirus outbreak. Anyone with disabilities, chronic health conditions or asthma could potentially be granted compassionate release during this unprecedented time.

These measures are all an attempt to prevent a prison-wide outbreak of COVID-19. If an outbreak did occur inside Texas prisons, then it would likely spread quickly due to everyone’s confinement. It’s likely that guards and prison staff would contract the virus, too. Texas prisons already struggle to provide medical care to prisoners, so a coronavirus outbreak would surely push them past their limits.

Inmates also couldn’t recover from coronavirus in the same way that most people are – at home. They’d be forced to deal with their illness alone in a jail cell. It’s highly likely that prison staff and guards would fear catching the virus from an infected inmate, and it’s unclear how their judgment may impact the level of care given to a sick inmate. 

President Donald Trump has been made aware of the current situation. The President said that he’s considering signing an executive order that would help non-violent elderly offenders secure an early release. The Justice Department also confirmed that they’re hoping to secure the release of low-risk inmates and put them on home confinement for the duration of their sentence.

Is a Coronavirus Release the Same Thing as Medical Parole? 

As COVID-19 continues to spread, at least one inmate in California and seven prison workers have already tested positive. New Jersey state has decided to go ahead and release at least 1,000 inmates. Texas is thinking of doing the same.

When looking at who to release from jail during this crisis, lawmakers must first identify inmates who have already applied for medical parole in the past. These individuals should be first in line for getting released, but there’s no guarantee.

Other individuals who are being considered for early parole are non-violent offenders and those accused of low-level crimes. Right now, no state is considering releasing violent criminals back into society. Parole boards are also considering who they think can reintegrate into society during this unique time. Many are concerned that releasing too many inmates will only lead to a homelessness problem.

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Everything You Need to Know about Medical Parole in Texas

Medical parole isn’t something that’s handed out freely in the state of Texas. While it’s considered compassionate, the state of Texas is well-known for being strict and severe on criminal offenders. 

This recent Coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented, and the release of so many offenders is not standard protocol. Some individuals (like the elderly) may be granted medical parole during this time to prevent them from contracting COVID-19. For many others, they’re being released simply due to the crisis.

While we’re experiencing an unprecedented global health crisis, that doesn’t mean the law in Texas has been suspended. You can (and likely will) still get arrested if you commit a crime in Texas right now. On top of that, you may need to go through a health screening before you’re sent into the general population. 

If you’re hoping to get approved for a medical parole release, then you need legal representation. Even with the Coronavirus crisis, it’s still difficult to achieve this type of release. Reach out to our office now to learn more about how we can help.

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