SACRAMENTO, Calif. — More than two dozen seriously ill female inmates could be among the first in line for release as California moves to meet a federal court order to reduce prison crowding by year's end, officials said Monday.
The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to delay a lower court order requiring the state to free nearly 10,000 inmates to help ease overcrowded conditions.
A federal official who controls prison medical care has given corrections officials the files of about 30 women who could be released on medical parole as part of the state's response.
They are among 900 inmates statewide who have been preliminarily identified as eligible for medical parole, said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the federal receiver.
"We're starting with the inmates with the most serious medical conditions," Hayhoe said. "These are ones that likely will need to be placed in nursing homes."
A state law that took effect in 2011 allowed inmates to be medically paroled only if they were permanently incapacitated while in prison, meaning they require 24-hour care and cannot perform activities of basic daily living.
The state said it would expand that definition as one way of freeing more inmates, though officials are awaiting a final court order waiving the existing state law so they can begin considering the broader standard.
None of the 30 women under consideration are in a coma. Some have paralysis, but many can get around at least to some extent on their own, Hayhoe said. They range in age from 26 to 86.
Prison officials decided to start with female inmates because of serious crowding in women's prisons. In addition, male patients with major medical problems can be transferred to the new California Correctional Health Care Facility in Stockton that will house 1,720 male inmates by year's end.
Opening the Stockton facility was another step in meeting the court's order.
Gov. Jerry Brown's administration also reported last week that it has expanded inmate firefighting camps to remove an additional 1,200 inmates from crowded prisons. It also is developing criteria for paroling elderly felons and expanding good-time credits leading to early release.
The state also is seeking final court permission to keep nearly 9,000 inmates in private prisons in other states.