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How Not to Seek Compassionate Release: Case Study

While we at the Law Offices of Brandon Sample have successfully assisted incarcerated clients in securing compassionate release, doing so is no small feat. Here is an example, not our client, of how not to seek a compassionate release.

Medical and Criminal Background

Jim is an elderly federal inmate incarcerated for multiple crimes.* He was sentenced to a term of natural life over 20 years ago. During this time, he How Not to Seek a Compassionate Releasehas suffered from several debilitating medical conditions. These include going blind and suffering several heart attacks. He is now confined to a walker and requires an inmate companion to walk him around the prison and help take care of him.

We learned about Jim's plight a few years ago when an incarcerated associate attempted to help him obtain compassionate release. Unfortunately, Jim had already burned several bridges prior to our associate's intervention, and Jim elected to take a very aggressive and antagonistic approach as it concerned obtaining compassionate release. This is a clear example of how not to seek a compassionate release.

Compassionate Release Process

Jim started his compassionate release process in the traditional manner. He drafted a petition for compassionate release in the format of a letter to his Warden. The Warden forwarded the request to the federal prison's Clinical Director, who drafted a summary of Jim's medical conditions. The Clinical Director then sent this summary to Jim's Warden along with a recommendation for approval. The Warden agreed and submitted the compassionate release petition to the Office of General Counsel for review.

In the interim, Jim obtained a copy of the Clinical Director's written summary. He did not agree with this summary, believing that the Clinical Director should have emphasized his heart attacks and loss of daily activities due to being blind. As a result, before General Counsel could render a decision -- or even forward the petition to the Medical Director for review -- Jim filed an administrative remedy seeking correction of the Clinical Director's analysis.

The Warden granted the administrative remedy, stopped the compassionate release process, and directed the new Clinical Director to conduct a fresh analysis of Jim's medical condition. This time, while the analysis was more detailed (and even included a reference to a recent heart attack), the Clinical Director recommended that the compassionate release petition be denied. Upon review, the Warden followed the Clinical Director's recommendation for denial and denied the petition, stating that the decision was based on both the Clinical Director's recommendation for denial and due to the severity of Jim's crime.

Jim then filed a new administrative remedy seeking to overturn the Warden's denial. This administrative remedy was denied at all levels. Jim approached his administrative remedies by arguing that he was entitled to a compassionate release and demanding that it be granted.

Jim followed this string of administrative remedies by sending letters to his Senators, Congressmen, and the Attorney General. In response, the Bureau agreed to conduct a new analysis of Jim's condition and his compassionate release petition. The Clinical Director again recommended that the petition be denied, and the Warden agreed.

Several other administrative remedies and petitions followed, but Jim has yet to be successful. He almost seems to have developed a clear road map on how not to seek a compassionate release.

Key Takeaways from Jim's Plight

Jim probably qualifies for compassionate release under two provisions: Terminal Medical Condition (PS 5050.49(3)(a)) and Debilitated Medical Condition (PS 5050.49(3)(b)). The problem is that he has made himself a thorn in the side of Bureau officials. He has approached the compassionate release process with a sense of antagonistic entitlement, which is not endearing to a bureaucrat.

The lesson here is to approach the compassionate release process from a state of humble request. When dealing with BOP officials, it is always a bad idea to try to force them to do anything that they are not required to do. This just isn't how bureaucrats work. Jim's approach may have eliminated any chance he had at compassionate release. His case shows very clearly how not to seek a compassionate release.

The better approach to obtaining compassionate release based on medical reasons is to draft a comprehensive and intelligent petition which specifically outlines the inmate's medical condition, exactly how this condition fits within the BOP criteria, and then to respectfully submit the petition to the Warden. If problems come up, they should be addressed in an even-handed and respectful fashion. Bureaucrats generally cannot be forced into an elective action. This should be kept in mind when dealing with the Bureau of Prisons personnel.

What to Do if You or a Loved One are in Jim's Position

If you or a loved one are in Jim's position (having entered into an antagonistic relationship over a compassionate release attempt) or have simply been denied a compassionate release, you need to rectify the defects and resubmit the petition. Contact us at the Law Offices of Brandon Sample to obtain a review of your case and a road map to compassionate release.

In most cases, we will review all medical records and supporting documents, draft a new compassionate release petition, and assist in removing any barriers to success. In someone like Jim's case, we would work to calm the situation down and motivate Bureau reviewing officials to take a clear-eyed look at the underlying situation, and to avoid basing their decision on a particular inmate's temperament. In the case of a simple denial for the inmate not qualifying, we will help the client understand the Bureau's criteria for a compassionate release and draft a new petition that helps clarify to the Bureau how the client does indeed qualify for compassionate release.

*The inmate's name has been changed to protect his privacy.

If you have other questions about how not to seek a compassionate release or if you have made some of the mistakes discussed in this case study, call us at 802-444-4357 and we can work on unwinding any problems.

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