PRISON TO RELEASE TERMINAL INMATE UNDER NEW LAW

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Subject: [patrickcrusade] MS - Prison to release terminal inmate under new law
 

July 31, 2004
Prison to release terminal inmate under new law

By Jacob Bennett
 jmbennett@jackson.gannett.com

A state prison official says he is ready to release the first terminally ill inmate from the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County under a new law.

Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said he will approve the release of a female prisoner as soon as her sister calls to verify she is ready to take on care responsibilities. He would not release the woman's name.

Two other inmates could be released if officials find a place for them to go, Epps said. Three of the six inmates Epps was considering for release have died in recent weeks before they could be placed in family care.

"It tells me the physicians are on target identifying the right patients," Epps said.

The law, which took effect July 1, provides for the release of inmates in the end stages of diseases such as cancer and lung disease. They must be too sick to cause harm.

Epps estimates the release program could save the agency about $100,000.

Chester Johnston, an inmate named in a Clarion-Ledger story on Tuesday as a candidate for release, was ineligible for the program because of a rape conviction. Johnston died July 20.

House Corrections Committee Chairman Bennett Malone said he worked for three years to get the medical release bill passed. He said he is glad to see that families will soon be able to take care of their dying loved ones.

"It's bad that these people die in prisons like that," Malone said. "It just doesn't seem right to me. I hope we've got everything worked out so we won't have problems in the future."

The legislation had partly stalled over disagreements about who would make the final call on who should be released.

The process for releasing an inmate takes several days, Epps said.

Doctors must review each case and make a recommendation to prison officials. Victims and prosecutors must be consulted.

Before Epps makes the final call, he said he must be certain inmates have a place to go where their medical needs will be met.

The owners of Heartfelt Hospice in Philadelphia have offered to take inmates with no place to go.

"People have to have a place to go and die," said Dupree Adcock, who owns the business with her husband. "If they qualify, we'd be happy to take them."

Source: http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=3D/20040731/NEWS01/407310373/1002


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