In California, the never ending quest to chop money from state budgets has taken a new turn as state prison officials have initiated a new medical parole program which allows medically incapacitated felons to utilize the services of private nursing homes.
Starting in 2010, the California Correctional system placed 29 inmates— not parolees or people whom have already served their time— but real, hardened criminals— whom have suffered form some type of medical incapacity that they now require medical care; into the hands of skilled nursing facilities throughout the state.
Under a medical parole policy chronicled recently in a New York Times’ article, “When the Nursing Home Resident in the Next Room is a Convicted Criminal”, a state board determines if the patient is indeed medically incapacitated and eligible for placement at facility in the state. Once placed, the inmate is treated just like any other patient at the facility and can go about his daily activities without the supervision of any of the security detail offered in a jail.
While most of the inmates placed in skilled nursing facilities outwardly appear incapable of perpetrating any of the violent acts that may have caused them their original problems, the Times article highlights how the subjectivity involved in determining an inmates disability has resulted in several situations where some inmates may still be capable of physically or psychologically imposed themselves on other patients or staff.
While the medical parole plan, saves the state more than $19 million annually, the other real winners in this situation are the facilities where these inmates are placed. Rather than being completely reliant on government stipends, the medical parole program explicitly allows the state to pay a 30% premium over standard Medicare rates as a method of enticing facilities to participate.
As a lawyer who has seen the devastation firsthand when violent people are permitted access to exceptionally vulnerable nursing home patients, I am somewhat skeptical about the long-term viability of this program. While in theory many of these inmates may be completely incapacitated, what happens in the exceptional case when the patients makes a significant recovery and is able to physically or psychologically bully another patient or staff. Worse yet, without any ongoing monitoring, what’s to keep the inmates ‘friends’ or ‘associates’ from paying a visit?
Time will tell, but my guess is that this program’s duration is limited.
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