Infirm Inmates in Kentucky Facing Release Restrictions

Releasing inmates back into the population and placing them under probation restrictions is an important part of easing them out of prison habits and back into society. However, occasionally it is those same restrictions that can prevent some inmates from ever having a chance to leave prison at all.

Michael Blaine Wolfe III, a sex offender who has served his full eight-year sentence for repeated cases of inappropriate sexual contact with minors, will nonetheless remain in prison for one simple reason. He cannot find anywhere to go.

In 1998, a bill sponsored by State Senator Brent Yonts of Greenville, Kentucky was created in response to an inmate who, after his release from prison for sexually abusing several members of his family, murdered a 16-year-old girl living in Senator Yont’s district.

The bill was signed into Kentucky law and requires that all sex offenders must provide a written plan of residence a minimum of 180 days prior to their release from prison. The intent is to allow law enforcement and probation officers to keep better track of sex offenders who may still present elements of risk to the general population. Violation of this policy means that a prisoner does not meet the conditions of their release and will not be allowed to leave the prison

Wolfe, and 5 other prisoners like him, are unable to find placement because of unique physical disabilities. Wolfe suffered an accident as a teenage and is confined to a wheelchair as a result. Another prisoner being held past his regular sentence, Frank Boswell, is “near death” according to his public defender.

These prisoners require extensive care that can only be provided by a nursing facility, but many nursing homes refuse to take the prisoners in. In part, this is because nursing homes may see men like Wolfe and Boswell as threats to their patients, but the fact that the nursing home would have to include its address as a part of the sex offender registry is also a contributor.

Senator Yonts has stated that his original intention with the law was not to keep infirm inmates stuck behind bars, and Kentucky lawmakers are currently discussing ways to change the law as well as potentially contracting with a nursing home that would treat sex offenders and other inmates in need of medical care.