Compassionate Release: Incapacitation of Spouse or Partner

A federal prisoner whose spouse or registered partner has become incapacitated may be eligible for compassionate release. In order to qualify for release under these circumstances, the prisoner must be the only available family member caregiver for the spouse or registered partner. This is the incapacitation of a spouse or partner category of compassionate release.

What is a Spouse or Registered Partner?

The Bureau considers a spouse to be an individual who is in a married Compassionate Release: Incapacitation of Spouse or Partnerrelationship with the prisoner. Specifically, a spouse must be legally married to the prisoner. This includes a common-law marriage if the relationship exists in a state where common-law marriage is recognized.

A registered partner is a person who is in a relationship with the prisoner that is legally recognized in some manner other than marriage. Examples include civil unions and registered domestic partnerships.

Regardless of whether the relationship is a marriage or partnership, the relationship should have been established prior to the prisoner’s arrest. The Bureau will look in the pre-sentence report for this information, but will also consider other administrative documentation, such as marriage certificates.

What is Incapacitation?

For purposes of compassionate release, the Bureau considers incapacitation to be either physical or cognitive. In order for the spouse or registered partner to be considered physically incapacitated, a serious injury or debilitating physical illness must have left the individual completely disabled. A complete disability means that the spouse or registered partner is incapable of self-care and is totally confined to a bed or chair.

In the case of a cognitive disability, confinement to a bed or chair is not necessary. Instead, the Bureau will look for a severe cognitive defect, which may be the result of Alzheimer’s disease or a traumatic brain injury, and which leaves the spouse or registered partner with severe and debilitating mental capacity or function.

Sample Compassionate Release Petition

To simplify matters, we have developed a sample compassionate release petition for the incapacitation of a spouse or registered partner. While this example is based on a fictional inmate with a created background, it can assist those intent on developing and submitting such a petition.

It is free to research, draft, and submit your own compassionate release petition, but we highly recommend that you contact the Law Offices of Brandon Sample to discuss the matter. We have considerable experience with compassionate release requests and can help you put your best foot forward when time is of the essence.

The Warden’s Review

After the prisoner applies for compassionate release due to a need to care for a spouse or registered partner, the Warden conducts a two-stage review. In the first stage, the Warden will review a variety of required documentation, including the following:

  • A statement that explains the incapacitation and establishes that the prisoner is the only family member capable of caring for the individual.
  • Verifiable medical documentation of the incapacity and written authorization from the prisoner and others for the Warden to obtain additional documentation from other sources.
  • Written and documented release plans, including housing and the financial means to care for the incapacitated spouse or registered partner.

The Institutional Committee’s Review

If the Warden determines that the case should move forward, the second stage of review is initiated. At this point, the Warden will convene a committee, generally consisting of the prisoner’s unit manager, counselor, and other staff, which may include social workers, psychologists, and doctors. The committee will gather and review additional documentation, including the following:

  • A description of the spouse or registered partner’s physical and mental condition, as well as the nature of the care received by the individual before and after the prisoner’s arrest.
  • Letters or documentation indicating that the prisoner is the only available family member caregiver and that the spouse or registered partner either is or would be, supportive of the prisoner’s release and provision of care.
  • This committee will then put together this information for the Warden’s review and consideration. This applies to the incapacitation of a spouse or partner category of compassionate release, along with others.
  • The Warden’s Decision

After reviewing the documentation and the committee’s finding, the Warden will render a decision. In making a determination, the Warden will consider the following factors:

  • Whether the prisoner committed violent acts before or during incarceration, including charges or convictions of domestic violence, or other abuse or neglect.
  • Whether the prisoner shared a home with the spouse or registered partner prior to incarceration, and whether drugs or firearms were in the home.
  • Whether the prisoner has received public assistance or held a job, and whether the prisoner and spouse or registered partner will be relying on public assistance.
  • Evidence of the prisoner’s contact with the spouse or registered partner before and during incarceration, as well as evidence of the prisoner’s custodial skills and obligations.
  • Whether the prisoner has participated in programming while incarcerated.
  • Whether the prisoner is a deportable alien.

In addition to these specific factors, the Warden must consider the factors that apply to all compassionate release requests. These include the following:

  • The prisoner’s criminal history, including the nature of the current offense, unresolved detainers, supervised release violations and the length of sentence and amount of time served.
  • The prisoner’s personal history, including current age, age at the time of arrest and institutional adjustment — including disciplinary infractions.
  • The prisoner’s release plans, including employment, medical and financial plans.
  • Comments from victims.
  • Whether release would minimize the severity of the offense.

The Compassionate Release Process

After reviewing all of this information, the Warden will render a decision. If the Warden denies the compassionate release application, the prisoner may challenge the decision using the Administrative Remedy Process. If the Warden approves the application, a package is forwarded to the Bureau’s General Counsel. If the General Counsel approves, the Director reviews the application. If the Director approves, the Bureau will ask the U.S. Attorney for the district in which the prisoner was sentenced to file a motion requesting a reduction in sentence. The sentencing court will then hold a hearing and make the final decision.

Read our page on the compassionate release process to learn more about the various steps and parties involved.

If you have questions or are interested in hiring an attorney to assist in seeking a compassionate release based on incapacitation of spouse or partner, call us at 802-444-4357.

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