The saddest calls I take at the office concern compassionate release. The most heartbreaking conversations are about refusals by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to pursue early release for prisoners who are suffering significant disability or nearing death. Time and again, I must explain to distraught family and friends that the BOP alone has the power to ask the court to reduce the sentence of a dying or debilitated prisoner.
Why would the BOP deny a dying prisoner the chance to spend their last days with family? The most frequent reason the BOP gives is that early release would "minimize the seriousness of the offense." Basically, the BOP feels that some prisoners don't deserve to go home, no matter how sick they are.
FAMM believes the judge should decide who deserves to get compassionate release. But, if the BOP doesn't ask the court to release the prisoner, the court cannot act — and to them, that's the end of the road.
But it's not the end of the road for us.
At FAMM, we never stop fighting for justice. Right now, we are involved in a court of appeals case, Avery v. Andrews, challenging the BOP's assumption that it can be both jailer and judge.
FAMM teamed up with the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs to submit a friend-of-the-court ("amicus") brief. Our brief explains that the BOP has exceeded the job Congress assigned it. We describe how the BOP got into the habit of saying "no" for the wrong reasons, and why it's time for the courts to fix this problem.
We also tell the stories of people who were turned down for compassionate release when they should have been packing for home. These sad stories show how absurd and wrong the BOP's position is.
Read our brief here. I promise to keep you posted on developments in the case.
Thank you for your support of our work.
General Counsel, FAMM