California prison officials hold 1st 'medical parole' hearing for convicted rapist

The parole board rejected paralyzed inmate Steven Martinez's request for medical parole.
The parole board rejected paralyzed inmate Steven Martinez's request for medical parole. California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation

California takes a small step toward reducing its inmate population and prison costs today. Prison officials will consider whether to grant “medical parole” to a paralyzed inmate.

Steven Charles Martinez is serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison for an especially brutal rape and kidnap 13 years ago. After he was convicted and sentenced, Martinez ended up at Centinela State Prison in Imperial County.

Ten years ago, a pair of inmates attacked him and stabbed him in the neck – severing his spinal cord. Ever since, Martinez has been a quadriplegic – but he’s been under guard the whole time. At 42, Martinez could live another 20 years or more – which means paying for guards for another 20 years, too.

A new state law aims to stop assigning guards to watch convicts too injured or too sick to escape. It requires the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to hold “medical parole” hearings.

Martinez is the first inmate to get one – but he won’t be the last. Corrections could give them to more than 30 inmates.

If he’s approved for “medical parole,” Martinez would still be an inmate – but without the guards.

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