Despite calls to save money by releasing seriously ill and aging inmates, Texas' parole board approves only a small portion of eligible prisoners, and the approval rate for this fiscal year is lower than usual, reports the Dallas Morning News. Inmate advocates and some fiscal conservatives cite cost savings as a reason to expand inmate medical releases. Parole board members and prosecutors say they concentrate on public safety, not cost. “We're looking to see if that person, considering their medical condition, if they are a threat to society,” said Rissie Owens, chairwoman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Board members don't know a prisoner's medical care costs when making their decisions, she said. Along with the nature of the inmate's crimes and ability for future criminal activity, the board looks at things like the prisoner's degree of mobility, assistance needed for daily living, cognitive condition, and estimated life expectancy, Owens said. Prison officials and others couldn't say why the rate of release approvals has dipped this year. Inmates who are terminally or seriously ill, who need long-term care or who are elderly, physically handicapped, mentally ill or mentally disabled may be eligible for the parole, technically called “medically recommended intensive supervision.” Prisoners who committed certain high-level crimes cannot be considered.