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State lawmakers advance medical release for county jail inmates

May 30, 2012 | 12:03 pm

Metropolitan Detention Center

The state Senate on Wednesday approved a request by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to allow jails to release terminally ill and medically incapacitated inmates before their sentences are complete.

A similar program adopted for state prisons has saved the state tens of millions of dollars, according to state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the author of SB 1462, which was sent to the Assembly for consideration.

The goal of the bill is "making room in overcrowded county jails for those who are dangerous and saving county governments dollars," Leno told his colleagues before the 22-15 Senate vote.

Sheriffs would be able to release prisoners deemed not a threat to society if a doctor determines they have six months or less to live. The sheriff would also be able to grant medical probation to physically incapacitated inmates.

Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) was among those opposing the bill. He noted that the Lockerbie bomber responsible for bringing down a Pan Am plane over Scotland lived for six years after he was given compassionate release for a terminal illness.

"This is a threat to society," Anderson said of the bill.


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--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: An inmate is taken to his cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center last year. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times