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Dr Manny's Notes

Catch & Release: 'Medical Parole' for Violent Inmates?

california_paralyzed_inmate_AP

This photo provided by Norma Martinez, shows Steven Martinez in his prison hospital bed at Corcoran State Prison in Corcoran, Calif. (AP)

What do you think of a man who is a repeat violent offender? A man who used a vehicle to run down his victim, then proceeded to beat her, kidnap her and rape her? Do you think this man needs to be in prison?

I’m going to tell you, in my opinion, that answer is overwhelmingly “yes.” Without a shadow of a doubt.

This man is real. His name is Steven Martinez, he’s 42 years old, and presently, he is in Corcoran State Prison in California serving a sentence of 157 years to life. Ten years ago, he got into a knife fight with another prisoner and his spine was severed, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Martinez hoped to be the first prison inmate allowed medical parole release under a new law aimed at cutting the number of inmates and reducing costs of care in the California state prison system. His hearing came after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered California to lower its prison population by about 33,000 in two years.

This measure is intended to reduce overcrowding and improve the treatment of physically and mentally ill inmates. However, only 50 inmates are likely to be initially eligible for medical parole – a far fewer number than California legislators anticipated when they approved the law – which has opened up opportunities for violent men like Martinez to attempt to weasel their way out of prison.

His argument is essentially this: You guys are spending so much money taking care of me in prison (about $625,000 a year in medical care alone). Why not just release me? Let me be free, and you’ll save a lot of money since Medicaid and eventually Medicare would then have to cover my medical expenses.

Either way, the taxpayer – which is you – will have to bear the burden of this criminal’s medical care. So wouldn’t you rather have him behind bars?

And I love the quote from his lawyer, who states “Vengeance for vengeance sake is a luxury we can no longer afford.”

The two parole commissioners who heard the case ruled against releasing Martinez from prison, and I applaud them for that. I believe they rightly recognized that even if Martinez is not much of a threat physically anymore, he is still the same person who beat and raped an innocent woman, among other crimes.

Listen, I understand that if you get sentenced to prison, it is the duty of the penitentiary system and society to provide shelter, food and medical care for you. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I understand that’s the current process that’s in place in this country. But as frustrating as it is, expensive medical care is no reason to free a prisoner who committed heinous crimes.

What’s more is, I don’t think putting somebody in prison for kidnapping and rape is considered “vengeance.” Rather, I see it as the responsible and ethical approach to deal with a criminal who does not deserve to roam free terrorizing the public. This is why we have laws and why we have trials.

I know that we have serious economic difficulties in this country right now, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that our legal system must remain the gatekeeper to ensure the safety of our society. I sincerely hope that prison officials in California continue to carefully consider the cases of each individual prisoner, as opposed to releasing them in droves for money’s sake.

What do you think?

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's Senior Managing Editor for Health News. Prior to this position, Alvarez was a FNC medical contributor. Click here more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center.
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