FAMM urges most vulnerable people in federal prison to immediately apply for compassionate release
WASHINGTON – In response to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, FAMM sent a letter to nearly 40,000 federal prisoners today encouraging all federal prisoners who are most vulnerable to immediately apply for early release. FAMM is working with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs to assist those who apply.
“There are thousands of sick and elderly people in federal prison whose continued incarceration serves no public safety purpose. This same population is the most vulnerable to coronavirus,” said FAMM President Kevin Ring. “They were not sentenced to death, and they should be released immediately.”
Ring noted that people in prison cannot take the same precautions that health experts have recommended to avoid contracting the virus. People in federal prison can’t practice social distancing. Moreover, the prisons are not clean and many do not have adequate medical care.
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.
FAMM worked with Congress to expand the compassionate release program in the First Step Act. One of the most important reforms gave people in prison the right to go to federal court and ask a judge to grant compassionate release if the Bureau of Prisons either denies a request or does not answer a request within 30 days.
“We are urging at-risk people to make the request to their wardens immediately. That starts the clock. If Congress and the president don’t act before then, the courts will have the chance to do the right thing,” said Ring.
FAMM is also encouraging state and local governments to use their authority to release sick and elderly people as quickly as possible.
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 in six states 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 nonpartisan, national advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice reforms to make our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM promotes change by raising the voices of families and individuals who are directly affected by counterproductive sentencing and prison policies.