Kathy Sweeney Investigates: Medical Parole - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Bertrand, MO

Kathy Sweeney Investigates: Medical Parole

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Milton Lee Bowles Milton Lee Bowles
Bowles' sisters Bowles' sisters
Brian Hauswirth with DOC Brian Hauswirth with DOC
Milton Lee Bowles Milton Lee Bowles

Medical Parole
By: Kathy Sweeney

BETRAND, Mo. - Do you think an inmate should get out of prison early if he or she is battling cancer?  That's the question a Bertrand family is dealing with and it gives me the opportunity to learn more about medical parole, who gets it, and why. 

Milton Lee Bowles, 61, is currently serving two concurrent five year sentences for DUI out of New Madrid and Stoddard counties.  This is Bowles' third time in prison, all for alcohol-related charges. 

"I don't believe in drinking and driving," Bowles' sister Dorothy said.  "I worry about the people he could have hurt when he gets behind the wheel.  So yes, he needs to pay, but he don't need to pay with his life." 

Bowles' four sisters all fear he will die in prison, because he has lung cancer.  Doctors found the cancer as Bowles began serving this latest sentence in May of 2007. 

"The CAT scan showed that his lung was full of fluid and there was also a mass in there," his youngest sister, Molly Stidham said.  

In a phone interview this week, Bowles himself told me his prison doctors called his cancer "terminal," giving him one to two years to live.

According to the Missouri Department of Corrections, an inmate can be eligible for a medical parole under the following guidelines: if the illness is terminal and the inmate has 6 months or less to live, or if they need nursing home care, or if confinement is greatly endangering or shortening their life. 

Bowles and his sisters feel he qualifies under that final guideline.  Bowles says he has only received a single cancer treatment in the 10 months he's been in prison.  Molly says two different prison doctors told her he needed his lower lung removed, but that surgery never happened. 

While DOC spokesman Brian Hauswirth cannot comment on Bowles' specific medical situation, he says inmate Bowles has received "proper treatment" during his incarceration. 

A doctor at the Moberly Correctional Center requested a medical parole for Milton Bowles in October of 2006.  Hauswirth confirms that request was denied because Bowles "did not meet the criteria" then, and he still does not meet it now. 

Bowles' family disagrees with this decision, questioning why his "terminal cancer" would not make him eligible for early release. 

"I just don't want him to die there," Molly said. "Let him come home, let us get him medical treatment, and if they want him to go back, take him back."

Milton Bowles is certainly not alone in seeing his request for medical parole denied.  In 2007, 93 Missouri inmates requested a medical parole (one of these came from Bowles) and DOC only granted 16 of them.  In the last four years, the department averaged 20-percent approval of medical paroles. 

Brian Hauswirth says the rarity of the approvals comes from the stringent guidelines Corrections and the Department of Probation and Parole must follow.  (Check out the entire five page policy here if you'd like to read through it.)

And it's not just an inmate's medical condition that's taken into consideration.  The Department also considers the crime committed, an inmate's likelihood to re-offend, and the minimum mandatory requirements of their sentence.  For Bowles, the minimum mandatory requirement on a five-year DUI sentence is 50-percent served.  That would put him out on parole in October of 2009, regardless of his health. 

But, Bowles' hopes for a medical parole are still alive.  DOC is monitoring his health and if his condition "deteriorates", Brian Hauswirth says, his request will be reviewed again.  For his part, Bowles contends he is not receiving proper care in prison and will die behind bars if he's not released early.  He says he wants you to know prisoners are not receiving the kind of treatment you might think they are. 

And if you don't have a loved one in prison or you feel inmates should not receive any kind of special treatment, Molly Stidham asks you to think about your own family, and how their problems affect you.  "Anybody who has family....if you don't love your family enough to stand behind them, then I don't know who you think is going to."  

I will stay in contact with Milton Bowles' family and let you know what happens.  If you have an issue or situation you'd like me to investigate, email me at ksweeney@kfvs12.com.

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