Federal Compassionate Release in Time of COVID-19

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Compassionate Release due to COVID-19

Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A), a federal judge has authority to grant “Compassionate Relief.” Specifically, a judge is able to modify conditions of where a prisoner is held, modify the sentence or order immediate release. However, the Judge needs to find that the inmate is being unreasonably exposed to the risk of physical harm. In addition to 3582, a judge can modify confinement conditions under U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Governmental Guidance on COVID-19 Pandemic

Since December 2019, COVID-19 has spread across the globe and throughout the United States. Governmental authorities in the United States issued guidelines and advice for citizens to follow. Specifically, working and schooling from home when possible. Furthermore avoiding social gatherings and discretionary travel.

COVID-19 in federal prisons

Prisons in the United States have a duty to provide care, safekeeping and protection to all inmates. Accordingly, federal courts have recognized that the Eighth Amendment is violated when there is “deliberate indifference” by the prisons regarding the inmate’s health and well being. As the Supreme Court has emphasized, those risks include the risk of “exposure of inmates to a serious, communicable disease.”

Application for Compassionate Release

It is important to consult an attorney about a compassionate release application. Frequently, there is one opportunity to make this request.

Who decides the Compassionate Release Application?

Firstly, this application is made by the inmate or through the inmate’s attorney to the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) . Then, BOP is given 30-days to provide a decision. During that time, BOP reviews the application as well as the inmate’s medical records.

The inmate is able to ask the sentencing judge for review if BOP denies the application. Additionally, if there is no answer for 30 days, the inmate can also ask the judge to review the compassionate release application. It is also important to know that because of COVID-19 health risks, some judges have been reviewing the applications without waiting for the 30 days.

What is needed for the Compassionate Release Application?

Compassionate release applications usually include the following information:

  1. Inmate’s medical conditions;
  2. Length of sentence remaining;
  3. Facility where inmate is held;
  4. Request filing date with BOP.

Contact a Compassionate Release Attorney

If you would like to apply for compassionate release for a loved one, contact us for a consultation.