COMPASSIONATE RELEASE PROGRAM EXPLAINED: WHO QUALIFIES?
Explore how compassionate release can be crucial in the justice system. Learn about its importance, process, and profound impacts on inmates’ lives.
Terminal Medical Conditions
Terminally ill prisoners without a specific life expectancy prognosis are eligible for compassionate release. Prisoners diagnosed with incurable diseases with 18 months life expectancy are also eligible.
Debilitated Medical Conditions
Prisoners who have suffered debilitating injuries are eligible for compassionate release. However, they must have no hope of recovery and require the care and assistance of others to be eligible.
Advanced Age Prisoners
Prisoners experiencing deteriorating physical or mental health due to age are eligible. Elderly prisoners must be at least 65 and have served at least 75 percent or ten years of their sentence to qualify.
Prisoners sentenced for crimes committed after November 1, 1987, who are 70 years old and have served 30 years of their sentence also qualify for compassionate release as “New Law” elderly inmates.
A prisoner can be eligible for compassionate release due to family circumstances. The incapacitation of a prisoner’s spouse or the caregiver of their minor child is grounds for compassionate release. However, the prisoner must be the only available family caregiver for the minor child or spouse to be eligible.
The 2023 amendments
On April 5, 2023, the U.S. Sentencing Commission approved amendments to its federal sentencing guidelines that expanded the eligibility criteria for compassionate release. Among the new qualifying criteria are sexual abuse by correctional officers and excessively long sentences.
When the warden approves the request, the warden sends it to the Regional Director. The Director then refers the request to the Bureau of Prisons Office of General Counsel.
2. Submission of Request to the Bureau of Prisons’ Director
The Counsel seeks the opinion of BOP’s Medical Director for requests based on medical reasons. For requests based on non-medical reasons, the Counsel refers the request to the e Correctional Programs Division.
The General Counsel then forwards the request to the Director of BOP for a final decision.
3. Request Denial or Approval by the Bureau of Prisons’ Director
Upon approval, the General Counsel will draft a compassionate release motion for the prisoner and forward it to the U.S. attorney to file it with the sentencing court.
Before the passage of the First Step Act in 2018, only the federal BOP could file a compassionate release motion. The First Step Act allows inmates to file a motion for compassionate release in a federal court if the BOP fails to file a motion on their behalf or fails to process their request within 30 days of receipt. However, inmates must exhaust all administrative rights to appeal to qualify.
Impacts of Compassionate Release
Compassionate release has a significant impact on both individuals and the criminal justice system as a whole. Here are some of the impacts of this program:
- Reduction in prison population: Compassionate release helps reduce prison overcrowding by allowing eligible prisoners to be released early.
- Cost-saving: With fewer prisoners, there is less strain on state budgets for prison maintenance, healthcare, and other expenses associated with incarceration.
- Promotes humanitarianism: Compassionate release promotes compassion and mercy towards those who do not threaten society.
- Reduces recidivism: Studies have shown that individuals who are released through compassionate release programs have lower rates of reoffending compared to those who serve their full sentences. This is because they can reintegrate into society and receive the necessary support.
- Provides closure for families: Compassionate release can provide closure for families of prisoners who are suffering from debilitating health conditions, allowing them to spend quality time together before their loved one passes away. Overall, compassionate release programs have a positive impact not only on individuals and their families but also on the criminal justice system and society as a whole.
What Is the Difference Between Compassionate Release and Parole?
A parole is an offender’s release before the end of a sentence based on behavioral condition. However, compassionate release is based on an inmate’s medical or family conditions. The likelihood of a released inmate on compassionate grounds to commit crimes is low due to their debilitated state or terminal illness.
Can Compassionate Release Be Granted for Non-Medical Reasons?
A compassionate release grant is attainable for non-medical reasons. Prisoners can secure compassionate release due to age-related and family conditions.