Special Projects Fund


Vera Institute of Justice

Funding Area

Special Projects Fund


April 27, 2018


This NYHealth-funded report by the Vera Institute of Justice examines medical parole in New York State and makes practical recommendations that can guide the State, and other states across the country, in making full use of their compassionate release laws.

Compassionate release laws enable incarcerated people who are elderly, seriously ill, incapacitated—or some combination thereof—to obtain parole in order to receive treatment in a community setting and in the company of loved ones. In recent years, the number of older adults in U.S. prisons has soared, even as the overall prison population has declined. With them, the elderly bring increasingly demanding health and end-of-life care needs. However, prisons make insufficient use of these laws and policies. The result? Too many people end up dying in prison, at great human cost and great cost to taxpayers.

60 % increase of the number of people ages 55 and older in New York State's prison population, from 2008 to 2017

The report finds that a broad, permissive statute is not enough to ensure that those incarcerated with serious illnesses and incapacitating medical conditions are successfully identified, processed, and released in a timely manner. Even people who are referred, eligible, and granted release by the New York State Board of Parole face a formidable challenge in finding a community placement that can accommodate their medical and nursing needs.

Read the full report.

Read an accompanying fact sheet.