The terminally ill deserve to die a dignified death with loved ones able to see them go in peace. But for Allison’s father, it was too late. Watch their story about the agonizing struggle against time and red tape that is all too familiar to so many Americans dealing with the criminal justice system. Tell your members of Congress to fix Compassionate Release!
Posted by Brave New Films on Thursday, April 20, 2017
The Problem: Congress gave federal courts the power to release federal prisoners early – commonly referred to as “compassionate release” – for “extraordinary and compelling” reasons such as imminent death or serious incapacitation. Congress authorized compassionate release because it realized that changed circumstances could make continued imprisonment senseless and inhumane. But if the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) refuses to bring prisoners’ cases to the courts, judges cannot rule on whether release is warranted. Unfortunately, the BOP rarely brings court motions for compassionate release.
FAMM’s advocacy work began by urging the Department of Justice and Bureau of Prisons to bring more motions for compassionate release. To raise awareness of the lack of compassionate release, FAMM and Human Rights Watch issued a report, The Answer is No: Too Little Compassionate Release in US Federal Prisons. It is the first comprehensive examination of how compassionate release in the federal system works. The 2013 report found numerous problems with the compassionate release process:
The Office of Inspector General (the DOJ’s internal watchdog) issued a scathing report that echoed a number of concerns raised by FAMM and Human Rights Watch, and provided a series of recommendations.
In 2013, spurred by criticisms from advocacy groups like FAMM and the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General, the Department of Justice announced that the Bureau of Prison’s had adopted new policies regarding which prisoners will be considered for compassionate release.
The new guidelines implemented some of the recommendations from The Answer is No and the OIG report. It outlines, among other things,
The new compassionate release criteria is broken down into three categories: medical, non-medical, and elderly (which in turn breaks down into medical and non-medical). The policy also requires the BOP to track compassionate release requests, handle them more efficiently, and establish personnel at each prison to process and monitor requests.
In 2016, the Sentencing Commission, against the wishes of the Department of Justice, voted unanimously to broaden and strengthen the criteria for federal compassionate release. The changes included recommendations made by FAMM and other advocates. Ultimately the Commission,
The future of compassionate release:
Despite successful efforts by advocacy groups like FAMM to strengthen the criteria for compassionate release in the federal system, the process is marred with neglect. The Office of the Inspector General found that in one year only 2 of the 93 elderly inmates who applied for compassionate release for non-medical reasons were granted release. None of the 203 elderly inmates who applied for medical compassionate release received it.
In order to improve the state of compassionate release at the federal level, FAMM recommends the following changes:
For a full list of recommendations, see “The Answer is No” in the resources below.
BOP Policy Statement on Compassionate Release (August 12, 2013)
Video: The Broken Promise of Compassionate Release by Steve Sady, Esq.