Unpacking SB 835: Who has a chance at freedom from medical and geriatric parole?

This bill has been introduced in the Senate but is not law. We at Straight Ahead want to see the bill become law, as it would allow the possibility for parole for many older and sick people in prisons, including those who might not be covered by other reform bills.

This was written and last updated August of 2021. Bills can sometimes change after being introduced.

Here’s what the bill does

The bill currently in the Senate, introduced by Senator Street, would introduce new forms of parole eligibility for people who are older or chronically ill.

The bill creates two new separate forms of parole eligibility: medical and geriatric. 

Medical Parole

The parole board can grant parole if the person is weaker or has less capacity due to: 

  1. Terminal illness
  2. Chronic physical or mental condition or disease
  3. Serious cognitive or functional impairment
  4. Deteriorating health due to aging

Geriatric parole

The parole board can grant parole if the person is:

  1. 55 years or older AND 
  2. Served 25 years OR half of their sentence (whichever is a shorter amount of time)

Note: The board has to determine that the person does not pose a threat to the community if released.

What changes here: Right now people sentenced to life sentences or extremely lengthy (virtual life) sentences who are not eligible for parole could become eligible. This also allows medical parole for people with shorter sentences but who are sick. It’s incredibly rare to be released when sick or older through compassionate release. This would allow many more people to be eligible for release and parole.

Good to know:

You only need to be covered by medical OR geriatric to be eligible. You don’t have to meet the criteria for both. You can be older but not sick, or sick but not older, and still be eligible.

Neither of these types of parole guarantee people will be released. The parole board still needs to make a determination if they believe a person should be released. But many people who were not allowed to be given a chance at parole at sentencing could now be given that chance.

Let’s make SB 835 law. Join the movement today.

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