The Criteria for Federal Compassionate Release can be confusing. Compassionate Release is a process for federal prisoners that allows inmates to request immediate release traditionally on medical grounds but can also be achieved on humanitarian grounds.

Criteria for Federal Compassionate Release

Federal Prison Early Release in now possible.

Historically, the granting of Compassionate Release has been very limited and extremely rare. However, with the enactment of the FIRST STEP Act of 2018, the ability to file for Compassionate Release has been greatly expanded. In fact, since it’s enactment, over 2,000 Compassionate releases have been granted.

This is due to the passage of the FIRST STEP Act, which brought with it new language that allows for federal prisoners to request for Compassionate Release for “extraordinary and compelling circumstances.” This catch all phrase has changed the criteria for Compassionate Release, allowing for prisoners to request for compassionate release for extenuating circumstances, such as medical conditions, personal and family hardships, or age-related reasons.

Another critical change that the FIRST STEP Act brought was increased access to the courts. In the past, inmates had a lengthy process, which was often delayed by BOP procedures, just to be eventually denied. An inmate was forced to exhaust all administrative remedies before filing with the courts. Some inmates even passed away while awaiting a BOP response.

Now, with the passage of the FIRST STEP Act, inmates may have access to the courts within 30 days of filing their initial request to their institutional warden. Furthermore, anyone who believes they have extraordinary and compelling circumstances may request a Compassionate Release.

First, an inmate must submit an official request to the institutional warden, asking for a Compassionate Release. The warden has (30) days to respond. This is a critical step in the process, and it is important that an inmates ‘ request be thorough and complete.

If an inmates request is not granted within (30) days, 18 U.S.C. subsection 3582 (c) (1) (A) allows for a motion to be filed in the court, requesting consideration for Compassionate Release.


The steps to request a Compassionate Release are fairly simple.

1) Submit a request to institution warden.

2) Warden conducts a review and evaluation.

3) Warden approves or denies the request.

4) In the event the BOP approves, the US attorney will file on your behalf.

5) In the event the BOP denies the request, or the expiration of the 30 day deadline, the inmate is now eligible to file a motion to the courts.

Have more questions about Compassionate Release?

Research by Greg Berry of Brandon Sample PLC