Compassionate Release

FAMM issues statement following Sentencing Commission report on compassionate release

Rabiah Burks, 202-822-6700

FAMM issues statement following Sentencing Commission report on compassionate release


WASHINGTON – FAMM President Kevin Ring issued the following statement after the U.S. Sentencing Commission released a report on compassionate release motions decided in 2020.

The report found that courts granted compassionate release to 2,549 people in federal prison last year, up from 145 in 2019. The massive increase was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to a reform in the First Step Act, which gave people in prison the ability to file motions for compassionate release on their own, rather than rely on the Bureau of Prisons or an attorney for the government.

The Commission reported that people in prison filed 96 percent of the motions for compassionate release in 2020, while the government filed a mere four percent. Fortunately, federal courts granted 21 percent of all compassionate release motions, sparing thousands of people trapped in prison as COVID-19 spread.

“The First Step Act saved lives. Compassionate release saves lives,” Ring said. “So many of the people granted compassionate release wouldn’t even have been considered before the First Step Act, because they couldn’t have gone to court themselves. Even when they did, the Justice Department opposed most of their motions.

“We are hopeful that states across the country will see the benefit to creating or expanding compassionate release laws. No one is made safer when medically vulnerable, sick, and dying people continue to serve long prison sentences.”

For nearly three decades, FAMM has united the voices of affected families, the formerly incarcerated, and a range of stakeholders and advocates to fight for a more fair and effective justice system. FAMM’s focus on ending a one-size-fits-all punishment structure has led to reforms to sentencing and prison policies at the state and federal level and is paving the way to programs that support rehabilitation for the 94% of all prisoners who will return to our neighborhoods one day.


FAMM is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice policies that safeguard taxpayer dollars and keep our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM is helping transform America’s criminal justice system by uniting the voices of impacted families and individuals and elevating the issues all across the country.