In response to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, FAMM encouraged the most vulnerable people in federal prison to immediately apply for early release. FAMM also urged state and local governments to use their authority to release sick and elderly people as quickly as possible
FAMM, together with partner organizations the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, then launched the COVID-19 Compassionate Release Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse works to connect medically vulnerable people in federal prison with federal defenders and pro bono attorneys.
To date, FAMM and partners have screened more than 5, 500 requests for assistance and referred nearly 2,000 requests to counsel to determine if a motion for compassionate release should be filed. More than 1,000 motions have been filed so far, resulting in at least 180 releases.
Intake for the COVID-19 Compassionate Release Clearinghouse is now being handled by the NACDL.
Intake for the COVID-19 Compassionate Release Clearinghouse is now being handled by the NACDL. If you or your loved one is seeking assistance with compassionate release, you can fill out the questionnaire here.
NOTE: If you are a loved one of someone who was sentenced in DC Superior Court, please fill out this questionnaire.
Want to know more? Use the links below to jump to:
- How You Can Help The Most Vulnerable
- State Department of Corrections (DOC) Dashboards with COVID-19 data
- Federal Resources
- Resources by State/Territory
- Videos from FAMM Staff Explaining More About Our Efforts
- More Information about Applying for Compassionate Release
How You Can Help the Most Vulnerable
The Centers for Disease Control consider the most vulnerable to include people over 65 years old, and people with a condition that affects their lungs, heart, kidney, immune system or who have another serious chronic medical condition. There are more than 10,000 people in federal prison who are over 60 years old. Many are in poor health.
Here’s how you can help them:
- Contact Congress and tell them to support the COVID-19 Safer Detention Act
- If you have a loved one who is currently incarcerated in a federal prison, contact them and encourage them to apply for compassionate release.
- Make a donation to FAMM’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund
- Read and share our press release about this unprecedented move for wide-range compassionate release.
- Sign our petition (with Color of Change and Worth Rises) to demand that prison telecom vendors provide free communication in this time of crisis.
- Sign our petition with Action Network: Tell Congress to ensure care and prevention measures are accessible to all people who are incarcerated.
State Department of Corrections (DOC) Dashboards with COVID-19 data
The following states have online dashboards. We’ll update this list with more states as dashboards are developed. Each state name links to that state’s dashboard.
- Spreadsheet with Full List of States with Dashboards (updated frequently)
- North Carolina
Below you’ll find memos, fact sheets, letters, and more in regards to federal policy for COVID-19.
- The Bureau of Prisons has a COVID-19 update page on its website. You can visit it to get current public information, resources, and updates, including the number and location of staff and prisoners who have tested positive for the virus.
- Information for Residents of Correctional Facilities: Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 Vaccine
- CARES Act: What Does the COVID-19 Relief Bill Do to Protect Incarcerated People?
- Understanding the Difference Between Home Confinement, Compassionate Release, and Clemency in the Federal Prison System
- Attorney General Barr’s April 3, 2020 Memo on Expanding and Maximizing Home Confinement
- Letter (4.21.2020) to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Michael Carvajal in response to the BOP’s decision to rescind home confinement dates for hundreds of people.
- 4.23.2020 Memo from the Bureau of Prisons re: Home Confinement
Resources by State/Territory
Below you’ll find memos, fact sheets, letters, and more in regards to state policies for COVID-19.
General State Updates:
- A list of what every state executive (or DOC) has done in response to COVID.
- Running tally of how states are responding to COVID, including which states are suspending work release programs
- Petition sent to Gov. Doug Ducey requesting he grant clemency to vulnerable people in Arizona prisons.
- Learn more about FAMM’s partner, The S.T.A.R.T. Project, on Facebook.
- Letter to the Arizona Department of Corrections asking for a COVID19 tracking dashboard
- Letter to Gov. Ducey urging him to grant clemency and release people.
- Letter to the Arizona Sherrifs Association asking sheriffs to help prevent COVID outbreaks in county jails.
- Op-Ed from Lillian Coppess calling for clemency from Gov. Ducey.
- Letter From FAMM’s Vice President of Policy Molly Gill to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry Director David Shinn regarding testing in Arizona’s prisons
- Letter asking the Department of Health for investigations of prisons and their handling of COVID-19.
- Letter from FAMM and The START Project to the Arizona DOC asking it to rescind a recent policy change that limits prisoner and staff access to the media.
- Contact your legislators and demand a special legislative session to address COVID-19 and people in prison.
- Florida COVID-19 FAQ
- Learn more about FAMM’s partner Florida Cares on Facebook.
- Letter requesting that the Florida Department of Corrections create a dashboard to give daily updates on the impact of COVID-19 in Florida’s prisons
- Prison-Related COVID-19 Concerns Report Form (Florida Cares)
- FAMM’s letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis urging support for the targeted release of vulnerable and low-risk people from Florida’s prisons as part of the state’s comprehensive response to COVID-19.
- FAMM’s letter to Gov. DeSantis urging a special session to address prison issues in the wake of COVID-19.
- Watch: 4.16.2020 Facebook Live on Florida Prisons and COVID-19
- Letter From FAMM’s Florida State Director Greg Newburn to Florida Dept. of Corrections Sec. Mark Inch regarding testing in Florida’s prisons
- 4.29.2020 Facebook Live Session on Updates for Florida
- FAMM’s letter to FDC Secretary Inch urging FDC to begin furloughing prisoners.
- Frequently Asked Questions about Furloughs in Florida
- Letter from FAMM and Mississippi Dreams Prison Advocacy asking Gov. Tate Reeves to release people using his clemency power, and asking the Department of Corrections (DOC) to set up an informational dashboard on its website. (UPDATE: as of April 15, 2020, FAMM has received no response. See our follow-up letter below)
- Follow-up letter to Gov. Reeves and DOC asking for a COVID-19 data dashboard.
- Letter to Gov. Tom Wolf urging him to use his reprieve power to release vulnerable people from state prisons. UPDATE: As of April 10, 2020, Gov. Wolf has ordered the Department of Corrections to establish temporary reprieve of sentences of incarceration!
- FAMM’s position statement to the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee
- Read: FAMM urges Gov. Wolf and Sec. Wetzel to increase COVID-19 testing in Pennsylvania’s prisons and expand release after infections skyrocket at SCI Huntingdon.
- Urge Gov. Wolf to Expand Testing and Release of Vulnerable Incarcerated People during the COVID-19 Crisis
- Watch: Ending Mass Incarceration in Pennsylvania: Taking Action during COVID-19 and Beyond Virtual Town Hall
- Letter to Gov. Wolf and Pa. General Assembly urging them to revise release mechanisms for people in prison due to COVID-19
Your COVID Questions, Answered!
Watch our April 3, 2020 Facebook Live on Compassionate Release:
Watch a Q&A with FAMM’s president,
Watch our Facebook Live with Matthew Charles and retired NYC Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik
Say Her Name: Andrea Circle Bear
Applying for Compassionate Release
The first step in compassionate release is a request to the warden. (While the sentencing judge makes the final determination about compassion release, the law requires the process to start with the warden.)
The request for compassionate release can be made by the person in prison, or by someone else on their behalf. Here is how you can make a request on your loved one’s behalf:
- Write a letter to the warden.
- In this letter:
- Include your loved one’s name and register number.
- Tell the warden how you are related.
- Tell the warden you are requesting compassionate release for your loved one.
- Explain the grounds you are relying on. See pages 2 and 3 in this explainer for information about compassionate release criteria.
- Explain why you think your loved one fits the CDC COVID-19 criteria (if s/he does).
- Explain where your loved one will live and how they be supported and receive medical care if they are released.
- Provide your full name and contact information.
- Be sure to:
- DATE the letter
- Keep a copy of the letter for your records
- Send the letter by certified mail so that you have a record of the date on which the letter is received by the warden.
- You can also email a copy of the letter to the warden’s executive assistant whose email address is on the BOP website for the institution where your loved one is incarcerated.
- Once the request for compassionate release is received by the warden, the 30-day waiting period begins.
- Once the 30 days have passed, the court is permitted to consider a compassionate release motion from your loved one.