Appropriations Pushes BOP on Compassionate Release

Post Date: July 17, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — FAMM Vice President and General Counsel Mary Price today saluted the House Appropriations Committee for including language in its fiscal year (FY) 2014 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations report that urges the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to make better use of its authority to grant compassionate release to more federal prisoners. FAMM has been a vocal and longtime proponent of expanding compassionate release in the federal prison system. The CJS Appropriations bill and report was approved at the full committee markup today.

“We are grateful to CJS Chairman Frank Wolf and other members of the House who seem as bothered as we are by the lack of compassion in the compassionate release program,” said Ms. Price. “We expect that close congressional oversight will prompt BOP to take the necessary steps to ensure the program is conducted as Congress intended.” 

The Committee report includes the following language: 

Compassionate release.—While BOP cannot control how many people enter prison, a recent GAO report (GAO–12–320) found that BOP underutilizes operational authority to shorten prison stays by failing to maximize the use of community confinement at the end of sentences and the use of the Residential Drug Abuse Program. The Committee is also aware of the recent OIG report (I–2013–006) on BOP’s failure to provide for compassionate release as Congress intended, which included recommendations on ways BOP could protect public safety while generating millions of dollars in savings. The Committee directs BOP to provide a briefing no later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act on its progress in implementing the OIG recommendations. 

Last November, FAMM worked with Human Rights Watch (HRW) to expose the failure of the BOP to administer the compassionate release program as Congress intended. Our investigative report, The Answer is No: Too Little Compassionate Release in US Federal Prisons, revealed that the BOP only recommends two dozen cases for early release a year. We heard from many prisoners about the struggles they had with compassionate release and some of their stories made it into our report.

On May 1, 2013, the Inspector General of Justice Department, who oversees the BOP, released its own investigative report, which concluded that the BOP “does not properly manage” the program, “resulting in inmates who may be eligible candidates for release not being considered.” Citing “multiple failures” that lead to “ad-hoc” decision-making, the report echoed many of the criticisms first raised by FAMM and HRW.

FAMM is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for fair, individualized, and proportionate sentences that fit the crime and the individual while protecting public safety.  Contact media@famm.org for more information.

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