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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Senate approved a measure Wednesday to reform criteria by which prison inmates apply for medical parole.

Senate Bill 320 , written by Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, allows inmates who are medically frail and vulnerable to be considered for medical parole proceedings, also known as compassionate release, according to a State Senate news release.

“Our prisons are at 107% capacity. In addition, Oklahoma’s prison population is aging quickly with many over 65—a large portion of that group has medical conditions that prevent them from being able to take care of themselves on a daily basis. This puts them in danger, causes more work for already understaffed prisons and is a tremendous cost to the state,” Garvin said. “This is fiscally responsible legislation that creates commonsense guidelines for who can apply for compassionate relief parole. Once an individual qualifies to apply, they still must go through a board review to determine if they should be released on parole. This is a much-needed change for these frail individuals and our prison system.”

Medically frail is defined in the bill as someone who has a medical condition that prevents them from independently performing two or more activities of daily living.  It defines medically vulnerable as an individual who has one or more medical conditions that would make them vulnerable to contracting an illness or disease while incarcerated that could cause them to die or become medically frail.

The legislation lists the medical conditions that place an individual in the medically vulnerable category as follows:

  • Disabling mental disorders including Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or similar degenerative brain disorders
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Chronic lung disease or asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Hepatitis C
  • Seizure disorders
  • Complications during pregnancy that threatens the health of the pregnant person or fetus including, but not limited to, preeclampsia, fetal abnormalities or fetal distress
  • Inmates receiving life sustaining care such as feeding tubes of colostomy bags
  • Disabling neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Any other condition related to a weakened immune system or condition that requires or is expected to require specialty care or recurrent hospitalizations.

“Oklahoma’s current medical parole statute has been interpreted to mean that only those near death or dying can be considered for early release, leaving behind a large population of individuals with chronic, debilitating illnesses who are no longer a threat to public safety,” Garvin said.

The news release said only twelve people in Oklahoma’s prison system were granted medical parole in 2020.

A medical determination will continue to be a three-step process conducted by a prison medical provider and DOC’s director and medical director all agreeing on the assessment.

“The DOC director would then request that a person be added to the medical parole docket before the Pardon and Parole Board (PPB),” the news release states.

Garvin said she consulted law enforcement personnel, district attorneys, judges and DOC officials while writing the bill.  The bill moves onto the Oklahoma House of Representatives.