Compassionate Release

FAMM releases 51 new state compassionate release memos

Media Contact:
Tripp Laino, 202-999-4273

FAMM releases 51 new state compassionate release memos


WASHINGTON – FAMM has released 51 updated state compassionate release memos to educate stakeholders about prison early release policies and programs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. As states grapple with rapidly aging prison populations and the ramifications of COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons, such programs offer a safety valve.

“Since we last reported on these programs in 2018, some states have taken action to improve them,” said FAMM General Counsel Mary Price. “Many, however, are unduly strict, burdensome and underutilized. These memos provide a treasure trove of information that will provide lawmakers with the knowledge and tools available to make needed changes.”

Each memo takes a deep dive into the regulations and requirements of these programs, including the varying categories of release, eligibility criteria and reporting. Nearly every state and the District of Columbia have some form of compassionate release, but these programs are rarely used.

FAMM previously reviewed these policies in 2018. Since then, some states including Illinois, Oklahoma, the District of Columbia, and Colorado, have significantly updated their compassionate release laws. Iowa remains the only state without compassionate release laws.

The barriers prisoners face in obtaining compassionate release include strict or vague eligibility requirements, categorical exclusions, missing or contradictory guidance, complex and time-consuming review processes, and unrealistic time frames.

Compassionate release is one of three main components of FAMM’s Second Chances Agenda which calls on state and federal lawmakers to pass second look laws, expand compassionate release, expand clemency, and other reforms.

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.