What is Compassionate Release?

Older, nonviolent inmates who could be terminally ill or having a short life expectancy due to another problem may be entitled to compassionate release. A recent New York Times article, “Frail, Old and Dying, but Their Only Way Out of Prison is a Coffin” covered what compassionate release is and how often it is used.

While compassionate release is rarely granted, it makes sense in both financial and humane terms. The program focuses on prisoners who pose minor threat to society (usually aged 65 and older) and who suffer either from chronic or from a serious medical condition.

Program Highlights

The compassionate release program is determined and implemented by the United States Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

Applicants should either be terminally ill or they should have experienced a significant deterioration of health that prevents them from functioning in a correctional facility. The opinion of a medical professional is usually taken in consideration. The compassionate release program is most often made available whenever there are no prospects of health improvement through conventional treatment.

A final condition that has to be met is that the inmate should have served at least 50 percent of their sentence by the time the request is made.

Certain individuals cannot apply for compassionate release under the BOP program. These individuals include state prisoners, state prisoners who are incarcerated in a federal prison and federal prisoners who have committed an offense before November 1, 1987.

Key Statistics about the Compassionate Release Program

While the logic behind the compassionate release program is easy to understand, statistics show that the scope of effectiveness isn’t as wide as expected.

In the period from 2013 to 2017, BOP approved only six percent of the 5,400 compassionate release applications received. Of the inmates who made a request, 266 died in prison. Half of those who died in prison were convicted of non-violent crimes.

Many applicants have been turned down on the premise that they pose a risk to society. The severity of criminal offense has contributed to approximately 60 percent of the rejections. Medical requirements could also be difficult to meet and on occasions, BOP has made a decision that’s in contradiction with the opinion of a medical professional.

There have been multiple reports about the compassionate release program being poorly managed. One of them was produced by US Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz. His statement concludes that inconsistent implementation has resulted in individuals who qualify for the program and terminally ill inmates dying before the request was considered.

Launching the BOP Procedure

To request compassionate release from BOP, an inmate should submit a written request or the BP-9 Form to their current warden.

Depending on the condition of the prisoner, a family member or another interested party could submit the request to a warden on their behalf.

The request has to contain a number of essential elements. For a start, it should outline the compelling reason for requesting compassionate release. In addition, it will have to feature a detailed release plan. A release plan states where the prisoner will reside after the release, who will support them financially and where the inmate will receive medical treatment.

One thing to understand is that the compassionate release application procedure could take a long time. The conditions may also be difficult for all inmates to meet. A home must be waiting for them outside and there should also be someone to accept the financial responsibility of carrying for an older, potentially terminally ill individual.

There is currently a push for change in the system, including the creation of compassionate release programs for state prisons. Only time will tell, however, whether the legislative change is going to take place.

To learn more information, contact Joffe Law, P.A. today at 954-723-0007. Attorney David Joffe practices criminal defense in both State and Federal Courts within the State of Florida. With access to reliable support staff and in-house investigatory services, our attorneys are able to bring their substantial skills to bear more efficiently and more effectively to work on your behalf.