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May 1, 2013

DOJ review confirms government waste and mismanagement of BOP's handling of compassionate release

Public policy groups have long criticized the many terrible ways in with the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) administered the authority Congress provided it for the early release of prisoners in dire condition. Most notably, late last year, as discussed here, Human Rights Watch and Families Against Mandatory Minimums today released a major report criticizing the poor administration of the federal compassionate release program. Today, this big new report from the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General confirmed what critics have long said. Here are key excerpts from the final portion of the report:

We concluded that an effectively managed compassionate release program would result in cost savings for the BOP, as well as assist the BOP in managing its continually growing inmate population and the resulting capacity challenges it is facing.  We further found that such a program would likely have a relatively low rate of recidivism.  However, we found that the existing BOP compassionate release program is poorly managed and that its inconsistent and ad hoc implementation has likely resulted in potentially eligible inmates not being considered for release.  It has also likely resulted in terminally ill inmates dying before their requests for compassionate release were decided.  Problems with the program’s management are concentrated in four areas.

First, the BOP’s regulations and Program Statement do not establish appropriate medical and non-medical criteria for compassionate release consideration and do not adequately define “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances that might warrant release....

Second, the BOP has failed to put in place timeliness standards at each step of the review process....

Third, the BOP does not have procedures to inform inmates about the compassionate release program....

Fourth, the BOP does not have a system to track all compassionate release requests, the timeliness of the review process, or whether decisions made by institution and regional office staff are consistent with each other or with BOP policy....

The BOP also does not track the time it takes to process requests and has no formal or standard means of determining the date the review process begins.  Consequently, the BOP cannot monitor its process effectively.  This is especially problematic for inmates with terminal medical conditions, and we found that 13 percent of inmates whose requests had been approved for compassionate release by a Warden and Regional Director died before a decision was made by the BOP Director....

Further, the BOP does not maintain cost data associated with the custody and treatment of inmates who may be eligible for compassionate release.  Despite this lack of data, the BOP reported to Congress that it could save $3.2 million by expanding the compassionate release program....

Finally, we found the rate of recidivism for inmates approved and released through the existing compassionate release program to be low compared with the overall rate for federal inmates released into the community.

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May 1, 2013 at 07:46 PM | Permalink


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Maybe someone out there knows of one, but in 35 years of federal defense work, I've never known or heard of a single case of the BOP releasing anyone under this program.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | May 2, 2013 12:51:43 AM

I do know of a case in the D. N.J. where "compassionate" release was granted even without a BOP motion -- though the AUSA did not oppose an outstanding motion by attorney Lynne Reid. See U.S. v. Charles Edward Meyers, 2:03-cr-00120-KSH (D.N.J.) (order reducing sentencing to time served).

I also note the term "compassionate" release is the worst of misnomers. I've been doing this for a dozen years, and "compassion" is not something that I've ever seen drive a BOP decision.

Posted by: Jay Hurst | May 2, 2013 9:15:24 AM

I worked on two cases where the prisoners were released under this program. In each instance, the individual died within a very short time after arriving in the community. I guess imminent Death and saving Tax monies are the only certainties about the program.

Posted by: alan chaset | May 2, 2013 9:46:54 AM

I have worked on cases under a similar state system where the prisoner had a clearly qualifying claim for compassionate release, there was no resistance from the state authorities, but the bureaucracy was too slow to approve the paperwork and the prisoner died before release to home/hospice was approved. And we're not talking about days of bureaucratic delay, we are talking weeks and months. Those were frustrating cases. None of these prisoners was a murderer or in sufficient physical condition to get out of bed, let alone re-offend. (Of course, I have worked on other cases where the prisoner was eventually released and got to die with his family, which was gratifying.)

Posted by: anon | May 2, 2013 1:21:25 PM

hmm seems that BOP is not keeping shit in the way of records on this program. Kind of makes you think they DON'T want to know!

Could make a damn good argument for Willful blindness.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 3, 2013 2:53:34 AM

LOL didn't think any of you lawyers would be able to touch this one!

"hmm seems that BOP is not keeping shit in the way of records on this program. Kind of makes you think they DON'T want to know!

Could make a damn good argument for Willful blindness."

Which is very very interesting since the govt has no problem frying anyone else who has the balls to sit there and tell them i didnt'know "x" was a criminal and what he was doing was illegal.....and i can prove i never bothered to find out!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 5, 2013 3:04:57 AM

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