Feds Should Free More Inmates Via “Compassionate Releases”–IG Report


The federal Bureau of Prisons could save money and cut overcrowding if it better managed a program for the “compassionate release” of inmates who are dying or facing other extraordinary circumstances, says a Justice Department inspector general report quoted by the New York Times. The federal prison system does not allow the parole of inmates before their sentences are completed, but in the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, Congress authorized the bureau to request that a judge reduce an inmate's sentence for “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances. Inspector General Michael Horowitz, studying compassionate releases from 2006 to 2011, recommended that the bureau make greater use of its ability to release inmates who are taking up bed space and using costly medical services but who pose relatively little risk to the public because of factors like age or poor health. The recidivism rate within three years for federal inmates is 41 percent. Just 5 of the 142 inmates released for compassionate reasons – 3.5 percent – in the studied period were rearrested within three years. The prison bureau does not have consistent standards for who is eligible for the program; some prisons said it had to be someone likely to die within six months, while others said within 12 months.

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