Compassionate Release Process Frequently Asked
1. Who is the initial compassionate release application submitted to?
The initial request and supporting documentation are submitted to the institution’s Warden.
2. Upon receipt, what action does the Warden take?
The compassionate release process depends on what type of petition is filed.
If the petition is based on medical reasons, it is forwarded to the prison’s Clinical Director. The Clinical Director then drafts a medical summary, along with a recommendation of approval or denial, and sends the matter back to the Warden for a decision to be rendered.
If the petition is based on the death or incapacitation of a caregiver or incapacitation of a spouse or partner, the Warden convenes a committee to investigate the matter. This committee collects relevant documents and information and forwards those to the Warden for a determination.
If the petition is non-medical or non-family oriented, the Warden makes his or her own determination without required input from other staff.
3. What happens if the Warden denies the compassionate release petition?
The Warden has substantial discretion when deciding such petitions. If he or she denies relief, the inmate will be furnished with a written rationale within 20 days of the determination. The inmate is then permitted to appeal the denial through the Bureau’s Administrative Remedy Program.
4. If denied, can the inmate refile?
Yes. There are no limits on the number of allowable attempts to obtain a compassionate release, though prudence suggests that some period of time and change in circumstances occur prior to the refiling. For more information, see our page What to Do if Denied Compassionate Release.
5. What happens if the Warden approves the request?
If the Warden approves the request, the application is forwarded to the Office of General Counsel for review and processing.
6. What does General Counsel do with the request?
If General Counsel agrees that the request should be granted, he or she forwards it to the Medical Director (if the petition is based on medical grounds) or the Associate Director, Correctional Programs Division (if based on non-medical grounds).
7. What actions do the Medical Director and Associate Director take?
The Medical Director or Associate Director will review the request, render a recommendation, and send the request back to General Counsel, who forwards the request to the Director for review.
8. What happens if the General Counsel or Director deny relief?
The inmate will be furnished with a written reason for denial within 20 days of such a determination. A denial at this level is deemed a final agency decision and is not appealable. The inmate is, of course, permitted to submit a new compassionate release request at any time.
9. If the Director approves, what happens?
The matter is forwarded to the U.S. Attorney for the inmate’s district of conviction to move the court for a reduction in sentence. If the court approves, the inmate’s sentence of imprisonment is modified to time served. This may not impact the term of supervised release imposed by the sentencing court, which may be adjusted.
10. Is the inmate immediately released?
The inmate is released as soon as transportation and any applicable medical care can be arranged.
11. Can anything be done to either speed this process up or improve the likelihood of success?
The Bureau of Prisons is notoriously slow when it comes to compassionate release petitions. In fact, as profiled on our Compassionate Release Statistics page, between 2014 and 2018, 81 federal prisoners died while awaiting a decision.
The best way to speed up the process and improve your chances of success is to bring on outside help. We at the Law Offices of Brandon Sample have considerable experience with compassionate release requests. While the Bureau moves at its own pace and makes its own decisions, we can help by researching, drafting, and submitting a top-quality petition, along with providing oversight and prodding where appropriate to give you the best possible chance at early release.
If these compassionate release process FAQs haven’t answered all of your questions, please call us at 802-444-4357 to speak to an attorney.