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Michigan Senate passes bill allowing home placement of medically frail prisoners

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(The Center Square) – Medically incapacitated Michigan prisoners moved a step closer to finding placement options other than parole board-approved medical facilities.

The Michigan Senate recently passed a bill that would allow some medically incapacitated prisoners to find other options, including home placement. The bill would also require medical parolees placed anywhere other than a medical facility be subject to electronic monitoring.

SB 599, sponsored by Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, aims to reduce the financial strain on prison resources and Michigan’s General Fund, and provide the most appropriate care for Michigan prisoners.

“Parole for medically fragile prisoners not only grants terminal patients the dignity to live out the end of their lives in a more suitable, ethical environment, but it is also a practical solution that will allow the Michigan Department of Corrections to focus its resources where they are most needed,” Geiss in a news release. “By advancing this bipartisan legislation forward, we are ensuring that our state is making the most out of our criminal justice system while helping save the state money.”

The bill addresses implementation issues of the 2019 “Medically Frail Parole” law, which introduced medical parole as an option for chronically incapacitated prisoners. It also transferred the cost of care from Michigan’s General Fund to Medicaid – which is largely federally funded – or other insurers.

Since 2019, MODC has granted one prisoner medical parole, according to Safe & Just Michigan, a criminal justice research and advocacy organization which supports SB 599.

Because some medical facilities do not accept medically frail parolees, the new bill also allows for home placement of parolees, so long as they are monitored electronically.

Jazmine Wells, policy advocacy Manager at Safe & Just Michigan, testified in support of the bill.

“SB 599 is a technical fix to the 2019 ‘Medically Frail Parole’ law…Medical parole allows MDOC to get out of the business of hospice and nursing care while shifting the costs of that care from 100% General Fund to Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurance,” Wells said.

Michigan taxpayers fund around 68% of the state’s General Fund, which includes around $2 billion annually for MODC operations. Prison health care spending costs more than $343 million annually, according to a 2024 state budget analysis by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

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