A comprehensive review of the federal prison system’s compassionate release program revealed a lack of standards for the evaluation of whether an inmate qualifies for a reduction in sentence, according to a U.S. Justice Department report published today.
The department's Office of the Inspector General found Bureau of Prisons staff had "varied and inconsistent understandings of circumstances that warranted consideration of compassionate release." Prison officials, the report also concluded, don't have effective procedures in place to inform inmates about the potential for compassionate release.
Under the program, the bureau can ask a federal judge to end a sentence based on "extraordinary and compelling" circumstances that were not present at the time the defendant was sentenced. In the six-year review period ending in 2011, the report said 142 inmates were approved for, and received, compassionate release. Click here for a copy of the report.
The DOJ report cited "multiple failures" in the implementation of compassionate release. The report found, among other things, disparate criteria for eligibility. For instance: at some prisons, only inmates with a life expectancy of six months or less were eligible. At others, inmates with a life expectancy of under a year were deemed eligible.