Meta Tag: The First Step Act of 2018 enacted, for the first time, a federal inmate, instead of solely the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to file a motion looking for compassionate release. It is a known fact that a significant up in motions were filed in 2020, the majority of which were filed by the inmates, which result in a half a decade increase in the number of motions granted by the court.
Having said that, COVID-19 resulted in a broader increase of filing of motions by federal inmates. This article pays close attention to what is needed to effect a compassionate release in different federal cases. Also, this scrutinizes data information from the year 2020.
Mandatory Requirements for Compassionate Release:
Generally, a federal inmate may be granted a so-called compassionate release if the court finds “extraordinary and compelling” reasons. This will signify a reduction in inmates with an age bracket of more than seventy (70) years old and have served thirty (30) years in prison. These people can also be granted a motion for compassionate release. 18 USC § 3582(c)(1)(A).
So, for “extraordinary and compelling” reasons to be appreciated, it should be in coherence with the policy statement issued by the United States Sentencing Commission and is written in the United States Sentencing Guidelines, Section 1B1.13. These are the danger to the community, medical condition, age family circumstances, and other like reasons.
- Danger to the community. At the onset, the inmate MUST not be a potential threat to the community. The court mainly pays close attention to the nature of the offense conduct to assess, the personal traits and previous criminal record of the person, if any. The court will also assess if the inmate was subject to a criminal justice sentence the time he committed the offense. If after the assessment, and the inmate is not regarded as a danger, then the term “extraordinary and compelling” reasons may be established.
- Medical history and condition. The medical condition of an inmate may also be considered and regarded as “extraordinary and compelling” if the same is suffering from lingering illness, or terminal, so to speak. Some of these are amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (“ALS”), metastatic solid tumor, advanced dementia, or end-stage organ disease.
- The medical condition of an inmate can also be regarded as “extraordinary and compelling” if the inmate is having an irreversible and serious medical or physical condition. They may also possess cognitive or functional impairment, they significantly eradicate their ability for self-care within a prison or correctional environment. In the same manner, an inmate who is having deteriorating or irreversible mental or physical issues due to age may also be regarded as having “extraordinary and compelling” medical quandary it if significantly eradicates their ability to care for themselves in a correctional or prison setting.
- Age. An inmate may regard the situation as “extraordinary and compelling” reasons relative to their age if their age reaches at least sixty-five (65) years old. Especially if they are experiencing mental or physical deterioration due to aging. Another parameter is that the inmate served at least ten (10) years of ¾ of their sentence. It is noteworthy that compassionate release based on age is a case-to-case basis. It differs from medical-based compassionate release since it does not need that the health of the inmate substantially diminishes their ability to care for themselves inside the facility.
- Family circumstances. The family circumstances of the inmates may be regarded as “extraordinary and compelling” if the one taking care of the inmate’s children or spouse dies or becomes incapacitated, and the inmate is the only immediate member capable of taking care of them.
- Combination of grounds and other reasons. Now, this is a case-to-case basis. A motion for the compassionate release can be based on an “extraordinary and compelling” reason other than those mentioned above if such combination truly warrants such a grant.
In the year 2020, almost 20% of motions filed were granted by the Federal Courts all over the United States. This simply means that they represent important growth in the number of inmates obtaining compassionate release. The success also is dependent on lotions or where they originated. Those granted were inmates sentenced for drug cases, fraud offenses, illegal possession of firearms, and robbery cases.
Lastly, and a little surprising, is that the length of the original sentence had a small impact on which types of cases were granted under compassionate release.
Key takeaway: Over the years, the federal inmate’s compassionate release was not ordinary. But, in the last several years, there has been an upsurge in the number of inmates being granted such type of release. This is because of two (2) unrelated scenarios, initially, the authorization of giving freedom for inmates to file their motions, and, the emergence of the pandemic brought about by the Covid-19 virus. The future of compassionate release remains to be prevalent. But for the first time, there is true hope for these inmates who bear such suffering as a result of their confinement.