Medical Parole

In April of 2018 the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA) was signed into law allowing that “a prisoner may be eligible for medical parole due to a terminal illness or permanent incapacitation.” These provisions are codified at M.G.L. A. 127 § 119A (a-i). 

The provisions of the law apply to state prisons, county jails and houses of correction in Massachusetts. If you are a terminally ill or incapacitated prisoner in state prison the superintendent and commissioner of correction or designee will be reviewing your request for medical parole. If you are a county prisoner or pre-trial detainee your request will be reviewed by the sheriff or designee and the commissioner of correction or a designee. 

This page is intended to help prisoners and family members understand the medical parole process and provides the DOC policy and medical parole request form as well as a sample medical parole petition. 

Definition of terminal Illness and incapacitation 

A terminal illness is defined as: a condition that appears incurable, as determined by a licensed physician, that will likely cause the death of the prisoner in not more than 18 months and that is so debilitating that the prisoner does not pose a public safety risk.” 

Permanent incapacitation is defied as: “a physical or cognitive incapacitation that appears irreversible, as determined by a licensed physician and that is so debilitating that the prisoner does not pose a public safety risk.” 

Who can request medical parole: 

The superintendent of a correctional facility shall consider a prisoner for medical parole upon a written petition by: 

    • the prisoner 
    • the prisoner’s attorney 
    • the prisoner’s next of kin 
    • a medical provider of the correctional facility 
    • a DOC staff member 

Superintendent or Sheriff Review and recommendation

The superintendent or sheriff shall review the petition and develop a recommendation as to the release of the prisoner. Whether or not the superintendent recommends in favor of medical parole, the superintendent or sheriff shall, not more than 21 days after receipt of the petition, transmit the petition and the recommendation to the commissioner of correction. 

The superintendent or sheriff shall transmit with the recommendation: 

    • a medical parole plan 
    • a written diagnosis by a physician licensed to practice medicine under section 2 of chapter 112. 
    • an assessment of the risk for violence that the prisoner poses to society. 

Commissioner notification and decision 

When the commissioner receives the petition and recommendation from the superintendent or sheriff they are required to notify in writing, 

    • the prisoner 
    • the person who petitioned for medical parole, if not the prisoner 
    • if applicable under chapter 258B, the victim or the victim’s family that the prisoner is being considered for medical parole. 
    • the district attorney for the jurisdiction where the offense resulting in the prisoner being committed to the correctional facility occurred 
    • The parties (the victim of the crime or the victim’s family and the DA) who receive the notice shall have an opportunity to submit written statements. If the prisoner seeking medical parole has been convicted of murder (1st or 2nd degree) the victim’s family and the DA can request a hearing. 

The commissioner shall issue a decision in 45 days after receiving the petition, which shall include a written statement of reasons for the commissioner’s decision. 

If the commissioner finds the prisoner seeking medical parole is terminally ill or permanently incapacitated such that if the prisoner is released the prisoner will live and remain at liberty without violating the law and that the release will not be incompatible with the welfare of society, the prisoner shall be released on medical parole. 

Not less than 24 hours before the date of a prisoner’s release on medical parole, the commissioner shall notify, in writing: 

    • the prisoner 
    • the person who petitioned for medical parole, if not the prisoner 
    • if applicable under chapter 258B, the victim or the victim’s family that the prisoner is being considered for medical parole. 
    • the district attorney for the jurisdiction where the offense resulting in the prisoner being committed to the correctional facility occurred 
    • The parties who receive the notice shall have an opportunity to submit written statements. 

Parole Board supervision during medical parole 

The parole board shall impose terms and conditions for medical parole that shall apply through the date upon which the prisoner’s sentence would have expired. 

If the parole board discovers the prisoner’s medical condition has improved and he or she would no longer be eligible for medical parole the parole officer shall take the medical parolee into custody. The prisoner shall have a hearing before the parole board. If the parole board determines there has been a violation of a condition of medical parole the prisoner shall resume serving the balance of the sentence. The prisoner shall receive credit for the time spent on parole while in compliance with all conditions. If the medical parole is revoked due to a change in the prisoners’ medical condition it shall not affect eligibility for future medical parole or any other release permitted by law. 

Cert action challenge 

A prisoner, sheriff, or superintendent aggrieved by a decision denying or granting medical parole made under this section may petition for relief pursuant to section 4 of chapter 249 (Action in the nature of certiorari – 60 days statute of limitations). A decision by the court affirming or reversing the commissioner’s grant or denial of medical parole shall not affect a prisoner’s eligibility for any other form of release permitted by law. A decision by the court pursuant to this subsection shall not preclude a prisoner’s eligibility for medical parole in the future. 

Please note: The DOC has taken the position in at least one medical parole cert challenge that a prisoner who chooses to file a cert action must complete the cert action process before filing another request for medical parole. The court in that case sided with the prisoner that another request could be filed before completing the cert process. 

Rules and regulations regarding medical parole

The secretary shall promulgate rules and regulations necessary for the enforcement and administration of this section

Please see the attached DOC policy 103 CMR 603 Medical Parole and the medical parole request form. Please review these documents carefully before submitting a request for medical parole. 

Please be aware of the following provisions of 103 DOC 603: 

    • The request for medical parole must be made on the DOC form attached to the DOC policy. 
    • The letter from the doctor regarding the terminal illness must be notarized according to 103 DOC 603.02 
    • The prisoner is required to sign a release to allow DOC to share the petition with the DA, the victim or the victim’s family. 
    • The prisoner must sign a release to allow the DOC and Parole Board to “access the prisoner’s parole plan” 
    • The request for medical parole should be submitted in writing to the superintendent. 
    • The superintendent will consult with a Multidisciplinary Review Team (MRT) in making the recommendation. The MRT consists of the commissioner or designee, the superintendent where the prisoner is housed, a representative of the health care provider (currently Correct Care Solutions or CCS), and the director of the DOC classification division 
    • The risk for violence assessment shall utilize “standardized assessment tools” such as “LS/CMI assessment tool and/or COMPAS as well as risk level for classification evaluation purposes” 
    • Out of state placements will be governed by the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision and “the petition may be conditioned on acceptance by the other jurisdiction” and may delay the prisoner’s release on medical parole. 103 DOC 603.02D 
    • 103 DOC 603.06 allows the commissioner to decide whether or not to conduct a hearing and to “govern the conduct of every phase of the hearing” f the person seeking medical parole is serving a sentence under M.G.L. c 265 section 1. 1st or 2nd degree murder. See 103 DOC 603.06 in the attached DOC policy for more information about hearings for medical parole. 

Annual Reporting 

The commissioner and the secretary shall file an annual report not later than March 1 with the clerks of the senate and the house of representatives, the senate and house committees on ways and means and the joint committee on the judiciary detailing, for the prior fiscal year:

    • the number of prisoners in the custody of the department or of the sheriffs who applied for medical parole under this section and the race and ethnicity of each applicant
    • the number of prisoners who have been granted medical parole and the race and ethnicity of each prisoner
    • the nature of the illness of the applicants for medical parole
    • the counties to which the prisoners have been released
    • the number of prisoners who have been denied medical parole, the reason for the denial and the race and ethnicity of each prisoner
    • the number of prisoners who have petitioned for medical parole more than once
    • the number of prisoners released who have been returned to the custody of the department or the sheriff and the reason for each prisoner’s return
    • the number of petitions for relief sought pursuant to subsection
    • Nothing in this report shall include personally identifiable information of the prisoners.