Compassionate Release Statistics FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Compassionate Release Statistics

Q) How many federal compassionate release requests are filed each year?

A) This is a difficult question to answer because the data that the Bureau of Prisons has released in the past several years may not be accurate. In response to a Congressional inquiry, the Bureau stated that between 2014 and 2018, 3,059 requests were filed. This conflicts with other data released to the New York Times which stated that 5,400 compassionate release requests were filed between 2013 and 2017.Compassionate Release Statistics FAQs

However, it appears that around 1,000 requests are filed each year.

Q) How many requests are approved each year?

A) This data is not available, but according to the New York Times, 306 applications were approved by the Director between 2013 and 2017.

Q) How many compassionate release requests are denied annually?

A) While annual figures are not available, between 2014 and 2018, a total of 2,405 petitions were denied by the Director. These do not include the many more denied by Wardens.

Q) What is the data on terminal medical condition requests?

A) Between 2014 and 2018, 817 applications were filed for a terminal medical condition, but only 405 were actually referred to the Director.

Q) What is the data on debilitated medical condition requests?

A) Between 2014 and 2018, 1,106 applications were filed for a debilitated medical condition. Only 181 were referred to the Director.

Q) What is the data on elderly-medical requests?

A) Between 2014 and 2018, 477 applications were filed for elderly-medical reasons, and only 177 were referred to the Director.

Q) What is the data on elderly-nonmedical requests?

A) Between 2014 and 2018, 268 applications were filed for elderly-nonmedical reasons; 87 were referred to the Director.

Q) What is the data on death or incapacitation of child caregiver requests?

A) Between 2014 and 2018, 282 applications were filed for death or incapacitation of child caregiver reasons, but only 33 were referred to the Director.

Q) What is the data on incapacitation of spouse or registered partner requests?

A) Between 2014 and 2018, 109 applications were filed for incapacitation of spouse or registered partner reasons. A grand total of 15 were referred to the Director.

Q) How many inmates die while waiting on a decision?

A) This also depends on the dataset. According to the Office of the Inspector General, between 2006 and 2011, 28 of 206 (13 percent) medical compassionate release applicants died while awaiting a decision. While the data released to Congress showed that between 2014 and 2018, 81 federal prisoners died, the data from the New York Times indicates that between 2013 and 2017, 266 federal prisoners died while awaiting a response. See our Compassionate Release Statistics page for more information.  These statistics, as presented in these frequently asked questions (FAQs), show how stark the situation really is.

Q) Why the confusion amongst the data?

A) As succinctly put by the Office of Inspector General, "The BOP does not properly manage the compassionate release program[.]" Even though compassionate release has been available within the Bureau of Prisons since 1984, it appears as though the Bureau has yet to put in place a robust system for tracking the number of requests, approvals, and denials. What's more, the data that is available is incomplete, untimely, and often misleading.

If you have any questions not answered by our compassionate release statistics FAQs, please call us at 802-444-4357.

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