Process of Compassionate Release in Federal Prison
Obtaining compassionate release from the Federal Bureau of Prisons is not a simple undertaking. It is important that any federal prisoner who pursues such relief understand the process so that expectations are properly grounded and pitfalls are avoided. This page discusses the process of compassionate release in federal prison.
If you or a loved one are considering seeking compassionate release, we highly recommend that you retain competent counsel to help guide you through the process. The skilled attorneys at the Law Offices of Brandon Sample have substantial experience in the seeking of compassionate release for our clients. Let us help you put your best foot forward.
Submission and Review at the Institutional Level: The First Step in the Compassionate Release Process in Federal Prison
The compassionate release process in federal prison begins with the prisoner's request to the Warden. Given the stakes involved, it is crucial that the prisoner's application to the Warden be complete and thoroughly supported with available documentation. At a minimum, the application must include the extraordinary and compelling circumstances that justify consideration and the prisoner's release plans. If the basis of the request is a medical condition, information on where the prisoner will receive treatment and how such treatment will be paid for must also be included.
Once the Warden receives the application, regulations require prompt review. Depending on the circumstances, the Warden may require a plethora of additional documents for review. For instance, if the extraordinary and compelling reason for compassionate release involves the death of a child's caregiver, an additional twelve categories of documentation are required in order to support the application. A similar amount of additional documentation is required when the extraordinary and compelling reason for compassionate release involves the incapacitation of a spouse or registered partner.
Once the Warden's review is complete, a decision is made at the local level. If the Warden denies the compassionate release request, the prisoner may use the Bureau's Administrative Remedy Program to contest the denial. If the Warden approves the request, the application is referred to the Bureau's Office of General Counsel for review and processing. Regardless of approval or denial, this is the final local step of the compassionate release process in federal prison.
Central Office Review and U.S. Attorney's Office Action
If the General Counsel determines that the request for compassionate release warrants approval, the General Counsel must then seek out the opinion of the Medical Director (if the request is based on a medical issue), or the Assistant Director, Correctional Programs Division (if the request is non-medical). The General Counsel then forwards the complete package, including the opinion, to the Director of the Bureau of Prisons.
The Director's decision is the final word from the Bureau. If the Director approves the application, the Director then contacts the U.S. Attorney in the jurisdiction in which the prisoner was sentenced and requests the filing of a motion, on the Bureau's behalf, asking the court to reduce the prisoner's sentence to time served.
The sentencing court will then convene a hearing in which evidence, including the Bureau's recommendation and supporting documentation, is considered. The court's decision is final in this matter. If the motion is granted, the Bureau will immediately release the prisoner.
If you have questions about the process of compassionate release in federal prisons or would like to retain an attorney to assist you in researching, drafting, and filing a compassionate release petition, please call us at 802-444-4357