The Campaign for Compassionate Release, composed of a coalition of diverse organizations, is a new public education and advocacy campaign to urge the creation, expansion, and robust use of federal and state programs that grant early release to prisoners facing extreme circumstances, such as a terminal or age-related illness. Most prisoners and their families do not know these programs exist. Others, including many prison officials, are misinformed and unclear about the process.
More than 30 organizations and individuals endorsed a statement of principles. The principles focus on the humanitarian, public safety, and economic benefits of granting early release to a limited number of disabled and elderly prisoners.
Many Campaign members and others also sent a letter to BOP Director Mark Inch, urging him to expand the program’s use. The letter echoes a similar letter sent by a bipartisan group of senators in August.
The federal compassionate release program has existed for decades but is rarely used. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) must decide who meets program criteria and seek their release in the courts, but only brings a trickle of release motions to the courts annually. Delays also plague the program; prisoners commonly die awaiting a decision.
The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) must decide who meets program criteria and seek their release in the courts, but only brings a trickle of release motions to the courts annually. Delays also plague the program; prisoners commonly die awaiting a decision. Congressional appropriators, government watchdogs, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and outside advocates all have questioned the BOP’s failure to use the program as Congress intended, especially since sick, dying and elderly prisoners are the least likely to re-offend and the most expensive to house.
State compassionate release programs vary wildly, from non-existent to extremely limited.
The Campaign for Compassionate Release supports the adoption and regular use by state and federal governments of compassionate release mechanisms that provide prisoners and their families with
(1) notice of the availability of compassionate release,
(2) clear guidance for submitting requests,
(3) a meaningful and timely review of and response to requests, and
(4) access to court review for relief when administrative avenues have been exhausted.
The families of prisoners who are seeking compassionate release are the most affected and unintended victims of the program. FAMM created three videos that highlight the personal stories of Warren Rossin, Allison Rice and Debbi DeMasi.
Video: The Broken Promise of Compassionate Release by Steve Sady, Esq.