California parole officials Monday said the state is ready to begin the early release of elderly and frail prisoners who meet new criteria for parole.
The program's details were released publicly for the first time at a meeting of the Board of Parole Hearings. They were ordered by a panel of federal judges earlier this year, as part of required steps the state must take to reduce prison crowding to acceptable levels.
Inmates who are over 60 and have spent at least 25 years in prison will be eligible for release if they are not sentenced to death or serving life without parole sentences. Those hearings are to begin in October, board executives said.
Prisoners whose health conditions require they receive skilled nursing care will also be eligible to be moved to health care or nursing facilities -- but if they recover they face a return trip to prison. Hearings under the new rules, which reflect an expansion of existing medical parole, are to begin by July 1, a board attorney said.
Gov. Jerry Brown's finance department earlier this year estimated the state would place 100 prisoners into health care facilities under the expanded program, and release 85 prisoners who met criteria for elderly parole. In both cases, parole officials stressed that commissioners are to consider public safety risks before agreeing to release a prisoner.
The announcement was heralded by members of the Life Support Alliance, a group that supports parole for inmates serving life sentences.
"We are encouraged with the new elder parole," said Gail Brown, who said older inmates "age out of violent behavior."