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October 19, 2022

New FAMM report: "Grading the States: The State Compassionate Release Report Card Project"

Compassionate-Release-MapAs detailed in this press release, the folks at FAMM have today released a lot of new materials and resources focused on how states approach compassionate release for state prisoners.  Here are details from the press release:

Today, FAMM has released a compassionate release report, including report cards for every state, grading compassionate release programs designed for incarcerated people struggling with certain extraordinary circumstances, such as a terminal or age-related illness.

“It was not surprising, but still disheartening to see so little improvement in compassionate release across the country since we first examined state compassionate release in 2018,” said Mary Price, FAMM’s general counsel and author of the report. “Lawmakers across the country fund compassionate release programs that sit idle and leave people to die in prison – including during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There comes a point in a person’s sentence where they are so sick that incarceration loses any meaning or worse, becomes torture. If the programs are broken and can’t be used effectively, the lawmakers should fix them.”

In concert with the report, FAMM today also released a new national poll which found that 70% of Americans, across political lines, support compassionate release programs.

“At a time of concern about rising rates of crime, why are so many states wasting their limited resources to incarcerate sick and elderly people?” said Kevin Ring, FAMM’s president. “Committing to compassionate release programs could allow for funds to be better used to address concerns about crime.”

FAMM graded the compassionate release programs for each state in several categories before assigning a letter grade. The map of results is below.

The report is an update to “Everywhere and Nowhere: Compassionate Release in the States,” a comprehensive, state-by-state report on the early-release programs. That report was released in 2018.

October 19, 2022 at 09:39 AM | Permalink


Until COVID-19 struck, the BOP almost never permitted compassionate release of terminally ill inmates. One problem with the BOP is that their mutitiered system (getting approvals from the Warden, Regional Director, Medical Adviser to the Director of BOP and the Director himself, before an AUSA could make a Motion for Compassionate Release in a Federal Court) just took too long. Most terminally ill inmates died before their Application could complete the entire process. In September 2006 (or so), I wrote a Petition for Compassionate Release for the longest serving inmate in the entire BOP, at USP - 1, Coleman, Florida. He began serving a paroleable life sentence in June 1964, for kidnapping resulting in death. After 30 years, he lasted about 2 weeks on parole, during which he and his brother robbed a few banks. His parole was revoked and he was returned to custody, with new charges and another sentence. By 2006, he was in his 80s, frail and restricted to a wheel chair. He was diagnosed b the prison's doctor with terminal cancer that had metasticized to his bones and organs. His Application for Compassionate Release was quickly approved by the Warden, but was at the Regional Director's Office when he died in his cell one morning about 6 weeks after it was filed. There was no work call or education call that morning. The prison was locked down while the local Coroner came and removed his body thru back hallways of the prison. Wardens don't like men with life sentences to see the dead bodies of other inmates who have passed away in prison. In Federal Penitentiaries, 2/3 of the inmates have life sentences.

In recent years, I watched a friend deal with her son's suffering and death while an inmate in a Kentucky state prison. This man had been involved in an armed robbery where someone was shot and killed when he was on drugs and 20 years old. He received a paroleable life sentence, which in Kentucky means he would receive his first parole consideration after serving 25 years. In his earl 40s, this man developed a glioblastoma, a fast growing and aggressive brain tumor. The Ky. DOC paid for surgery to remove much of the tumor and them chemotherapy. Nevertheless, the tumor quickly returned and grew. His prison physician and Warden recommended him for early Medical Parole, since he had less than a year to live. But the Parole Board said no, pointing out that his initial 25 year Parole consideration was only a few months away. But the Parole Board refused to release him at his 25 year review, despite his terminal brain tumor. A few months later, he was in a coma at a public hospital in Louisville, near death. The Warden contacted his Mother and let her come hold her unconscious son's hand and sit with him for the last two days until he died. She posted pics of her son, with all the tubes and I.V.s, on Facebook. It made no sense to keep him in custody to die that way at great taxpayer expense.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Oct 20, 2022 2:40:13 PM

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