The Los Angeles Times says Congress is poised to allow guidelines to go into effect starting Nov. 1 that would give federal judges much greater power to release federal inmates for health reasons — a practice known as “compassionate release” in corrections circles. The new guidelines would be a victory for advocacy groups that have been seeking more lenient treatment for years. They would also put the federal government ahead of a movement in which a number of states, including California, have sought to expand their early-release laws.
Every year, about a dozen of more than 200,000 inmates in federal custody around the country have their sentences commuted for health reasons, the newspaper says. Prison officials say the idea is to give terminally ill incapacitated inmates an opportunity to have their sentences commuted. But prison reform advocates say few terminally ill inmates are approved for release, and the bureaucracy is such that even when people are approved, they often die before they get out.