The Austin American-Statesman reported that the inmates who qualified would be moved to secure nursing homes where they could be monitored through ankle tracking bracelets.
The 10 sickest convicts cost taxpayers more than $1.9 million in 2011, records show. The costs are expected to rise as the state's prison population ages. Already, convicts older than 55 make up 8 percent of the state's prison population, while accounting for 30 percent of the system's medical costs. Paroling sick inmates could shift those health care costs to the federal government.
"There's no question there are a large number of immobile, critically ill, incapacitated and old inmates who could and should be released to a nursing home," said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, who said legislation or policy changes might be necessary to establish the nursing homes. "We could save millions of dollars and not compromise public safety one bit. . These are criminals who at one time were dangerous, but who now pose no threat to anyone because of their health conditions."
One of them could be Donald Carl Rash, 61, who is serving a 23-year sentence for robbing a convenience store in 1999.
Rash suffers from diabetes, hepatitis C, chronic chest pain and breathing difficulties that make it difficult for him to move. But state parole officials have said he doesn't qualify for early release on medical grounds.
Rash's attorneys disagree. "Because of his age and disability, Mr. Rash's likelihood of recidivism is extremely low -- and there is no reason to keep him locked up," said Michelle Smith, a justice fellow at the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin that is pushing for Rash's early release. "He's exactly the kind of person Texas should try to move out of prison."