WASHINGTON, D.C. — Our unwavering effort to put compassion back in the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) compassionate release program is gaining steam.
Last November, we 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.
Last week, we received confirmation that none other than the Inspector General of Justice Department, who oversees the BOP, shares our concerns.
On Thursday, this independent watchdog released its own investigative report. It 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 echoes many of the criticisms first raised by FAMM and HRW.
Of all the report’s disturbing findings, perhaps the most stunning and sickening was the discovery that “approximately 13 percent (28 of 208) of the inmates whose release requests had been approved by a Warden and Regional Director died before their requests were decided by the BOP Director.” We know countless more, wrongfully denied by prison staff, die trying to make someone listen. “Countless” because, as the IG and FAMM pointed out, the BOP does not keep track of all compassionate release requests.
The Associated Press (AP) looked to FAMM Vice President and General Counsel Mary Price, co-author of the FAMM-HRW report, for her reaction to the new investigation. Mary didn’t mince words. She said the compassionate release program, as currently run, “is both cruel and inefficient” and that the DOJ watchdog’s report “should be a wake-up call” for the BOP.
Today, the editors of The New York Times joined the call for reform. In an editorial titled ”In Place of Compassion, Cruelty,” the editors cited the FAMM-HRW report as they urged Congress to “conduct a hearing that would put the department and the bureau on public record about what they are doing to properly fulfill their duty under the law and to hold them accountable.”
Rest assured FAMM will keep fighting for improvements to the compassionate release program. As always, we are grateful to the FAMM members who shared their stories with us. We will stay in touch as the battle for simple compassion continues.