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Elderly Inmates Compassionate Release

1. What is the basis of the Elderly Inmates compassionate release category?

As with all areas of compassionate release, Bureau of Prisons Program Statement 5050.49, Compassionate Release/Reduction in Sentence, governs this category. In the case of elderly inmates, § 4(a) governs "New Law" Elderly Inmates, § 4(b) covers Elderly Inmates with Medical Conditions, and § 4(c) relates to Other Elderly Inmates.

2. What is the criteria for "New Law" Elderly Inmates?

The inmate must have been "sentenced for an offense that occurred on or after November 1, 1987," be 70 years old or older and have served at least 30 years of their imprisonment.

3. What is the criteria for Elderly Inmates with Medical Conditions?

These inmates must be 65 years old or older, "suffer from chronic or serious medical conditions related to the aging process," and "be experiencing deteriorating mental or physical health that substantially diminishes their ability to function in a correctional setting." Additionally, "conventional medical treatments must promise no substantial improvement to their mental or physical condition," and they must have served at least half of their sentence.

Policy also dictates that the inmate's age at the time of the offense and whether the medical condition was present at the time of offense should be considered when "evaluating the risk that an elderly inmate may re-offend."

4. What is the criteria for Other Elderly Inmates?

These inmates must be 65 years of age or older and have served the greater of 10 years imprisonment or 75 percent of their sentence. Bureau policy stipulates that inmates who were 60 years old or older at the time of their sentencing should not be considered under this category of compassionate release.

5. How likely is it that an Elderly Inmate compassionate release request will be granted?

This depends on the specific category, all of which are profiled on our Compassionate Release Statistics page. From 2014 to 2018, the Bureau received a total of 3,059 requests. Of these, 477 applications were for elderly-medical and 268 applications were for elderly-nonmedical. Of these, only 117 medical and 87 non-medical were referred to the Director for review. During this four-year period, 306 requests were granted, while 2,405 were denied.

6. What can be done to improve the chances of success?

There are several actions that can make a difference. To start, prior to filing, the inmate should take a hard look at the Bureau's compassionate release policy to ensure that they qualify for relief and that they are filing under the most appropriate provision. Another important element to spend some time on is the request itself. This document needs to not only request compassionate release but to also specifically address the criteria for the provision in question. Supporting documentation which verifies all assertions made in the request itself should be secured and attached.

7. Can hiring a compassionate release attorney make a difference?

While a compassionate release attorney can't force the Bureau to grant relief, they certainly can improve an inmate's odds. This is because such attorneys know the Bureau's policies inside and out and understand what the Bureau considers when approving or denying requests. An experienced compassionate release attorney can help sidestep problems before they occur.

An experienced compassionate release attorney can also provide oversight and outside pressure. Compassionate release petitions tend to stall while being reviewed by the Bureau. An attorney can stay on top of the Bureau so that this doesn't happen, or if it does, get the wheels moving again. Sadly, the Bureau is so slow that many inmates die before a decision is rendered on their compassionate release application.

If you still have questions after reading our elderly inmates' compassionate release FAQs, please call 802-444-4357 to speak with one of our lawyers.

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