Contact: Rabiah Burks firstname.lastname@example.org 202-822-6700
WASHINGTON, DC – FAMM general counsel Mary Price will testify before the United States Sentencing Commission today to bring attention to the problems prisoners face when trying to secure an early release due to extraordinary and compelling circumstances, such as imminent death or serious incapacitation. Despite the growing number of prisoners in U.S. federal prisons, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) routinely denies requests for compassionate release, a practice Price called “biased” and “inhumane.”
“Too often and for too long, the BOP’s answer to prisoners seeking compassionate release has been ‘no.’ Their view of ‘extraordinary and compelling’ circumstances as cause for early release is severely misguided,” Ms. Price said.
In her written testimony, Ms. Price clarified the division of labor created by Congress to process early releases. The U.S. Sentencing Commission provides criteria that warrant a reduction in sentence. The BOP identifies those that qualify based on the criteria laid out by the Commission and bring a motion to the court for their early release. The courts hold final responsibility to judge whether a motion for compassionate release is appropriate or not. However, the BOP too often impedes this progression.
“The BOP has effectively hijacked the process and enforced its authority by withholding compassionate release motions, even for people who squarely had extraordinary and compelling reasons, if it felt for other reasons the prisoner should not be released. This bias has infected the process to this very day, undermining the judicial role by effectively usurping it.”
Among other suggestions, Ms. Price responded to the overcrowding in the Bureau of Prisons and the challenging conditions elderly and sick individuals face in their environment every day. According to the most recent report by the Office of the Inspector General, prisoners age 50 and older are the fastest growing population in U.S. prisons today, increasing 25 percent from 2009 to 2013. Price called on the Commission to consider making prisoners age 50 and older who have served at least 50 percent of their sentence, especially those with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities, eligible for a sentence reduction.
FAMM routinely hears from many family members who are unjustly affected by the denial of compassionate release. Many of these individuals are serving lengthy sentences for nonviolent crimes. On behalf of the people who entrust their stories to us, FAMM will continue to encourage effective and streamlined use of compassionate release.
Testimony of Mary Price, General Counsel of FAMM Before The U.S. Sentencing Commission:
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