Editors Note – Department of Justice with the Department of Homeland Security places prisoners above law-abiding citizens, putting the homeland at further risk by releasing prisoners on ‘compassionate grounds’.

Federal Prisons Plan to Release More Inmates on ‘Compassionate’ Grounds

By: Susan Jones – CNSNEWS.com

To reduce the growing prison population and  escalating prison costs, the U.S Bureau of Prisons says it is now  revising its “compassionate release” rules so more ailing and  aging inmates can be freed.

A report from the Justice Department’s inspector general says the revised rules  will expand the compassionate release program by making inmates with a  life expectancy of up to 18 months eligible for consideration (versus  the current 12 months).

The revised rules also will explain what level of functioning is  “extraordinary and compelling” enough for inmates to be considered for  release.

The OIG report notes that the Justice Department’s FY 2013 budget request identified $3.2  million in savings to be achieved by expanding the BOP’s compassionate  release program.

In the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, Congress authorized the federal  Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to ask a federal judge to reduce an inmate’s  sentence for “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances.

The request can be based on either medical or non-medical conditions  that could not reasonably have been foreseen by the judge at the time of  sentencing.

The review process begins when an inmate submits a compassionate  release request to the warden. That request must include the inmate’s  reason for asking, a plan for where the inmate will live and support  himself (and receive and pay for medical care) if he’s released.

According to U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines, extraordinary and compelling reasons exist when:

  • The defendant is suffering from a terminal illness.
  • The defendant is suffering from a permanent physical or medical  condition, or is experiencing deteriorating physical or mental health  because of the aging process;
  • The death or incapacitation of the defendant’s only family member capable of caring for the defendant’s minor children.
  • Any other circumstance which the director of the Bureau of Prisons finds to be an extraordinary and compelling reason.

From 2006 through 2011, the BOP Director considered 211 compassionate  release requests that had been approved by both a prison warden and a  regional prison director. (BOP did not track the number of requests  that never made it that far.)

Of the 208 requests reviewed by OIG, 206 requests were for medical  reasons and 2 requests were for non-medical reasons. The Bureau of  Prisons director approved 142 (68 percent) of the requests and denied 38  (18 percent). In 28 cases (13 percent), the inmates died before a  decision was made by the BOP.

Recidivism and ‘undue risk’

The BOP says it tries to operate the compassionate release program in  a way that “protects the public from undue risk.” But it also  “recognizes that releasing inmates… could result in some increase in the  number of inmates who are rearrested after release, particularly if the  numbers and types of inmates released under compassionate release  authority are expanded.”

OIG asked the FBI for arrest data on the 142 inmates who were  released from 2006 through 2011. It found that 5 of them (or 3.5  percent) were rearrested within a three-year period. (By comparison, the  general recidivism rate for federal offenders has been estimated to be  41 percent within 3 years after release.)

According to FBI data, the offenses for which the five were rearrested included probation violations, theft, and drug offenses.

Nevertheless, the OIG concludes that “a well-managed compassionate  release program can significantly minimize the risk to the public from  an inmate’s early release from prison.”

The OIG report also says an “effectively managed” compassionate  release program would save money and help BOP manage its ever-growing  inmate population.

Before the program is expanded, it needs to be managed better: The  OIG report says the existing program “has been poorly managed and  implemented inconsistently, likely resulting in eligible inmates not  being considered for release and in terminally ill inmates dying before  their requests were decided.”

The report makes 11 recommendations to improve the way the Bureau of  Prisons manages the compassionate release program for inmates who do not  present a threat to the community and who present a minimal risk of  recidivism.

Among them — written policies should be updated, timeframes should  be established for processing requests, and all inmates should be  informed about the compassionate release program.