Staying Calm In Court

Too Sick To Serve: What It Takes To Get A Compassionate Release

Defendants are sentenced based on their current state of health and other knowable factors. As everyone knows, though, things can change fairly quickly, and it's not unusual for people to develop debilitating and life-threatening conditions while in prison. When this occurs, it may be possible to get out of jail early by winning a compassionate release. Here's more information about this legal option.

Qualifying for a Compassionate Release

A compassionate release is a type of clemency where the inmate is let out of jail before his or her sentence is complete due to extraordinary or compelling circumstances. It is not like a pardon where the defendant is forgiven for the crime and has his or her rights restored, and it's not a commuted sentence where the inmate is let out of jail early and no longer has to serve the rest of his or her time. The person may be returned to jail if the extraordinary situation resolves itself or the inmate may be subjected to monitoring via a probation or parole program.

People with serious disabilities and terminal illnesses are prime candidates for this program. To qualify, however, you must:

  • Be suffering from a terminal condition where you are expected to live less than 18 months, and/or
  • Be disabled from an incurable condition or unrecoverable debilitating injury that leaves you bed or wheelchair bound and capable of only limited self-care

If you're 65 or over, you may also qualify for a medical compassionate release if you have already served half your sentence, suffer from an age-related chronic or serious condition, and have an untreatable physical or mental condition.

In all of these scenarios, the Federal Bureau of Prisoners will also take into account whether your condition affects your ability to reoffend.

Requesting Early Release

To start the process of getting a compassionate release, you must submit a request to the warden of the facility where you're located. You must detail the nature of your condition and your plans after you're released (e.g. where you'll live, work, etc.). If the warden feels you qualify for the program, he or she will forward your request to the Federal Bureau of Prisons who will evaluate your application and either submit a motion for early release with the sentencing court or deny your request.

It's important to understand that getting a compassionate release has been notoriously difficult. According to Human Right Watch, the Federal Bureau of Prisons routinely blocked applicants. Additionally, prisoners do not have a way to appeal the agency's decision as they can't go directly to the courts with this request.

However, with the right lawyer and strategy on your side, you may be able to win a medical release from jail. Contact a criminal defense attorney for more information about and help with your case.