Compassionate Release

In compassionate release cases, judges have to decide if an inmate’s situation presents “extraordinary and compelling reasons” to reduce their prison sentence.

In some cases reviewed, judges found that an inmate’s medical conditions met the standard given the pandemic.

Judges are making medical assessments about how much of a threat COVID-19 poses to an individual inmate and then deciding how to balance that against the public safety risk of sending that person back into the community; inmates are usually released to home confinement or under the supervision of a probation officer.

And judges are reaching different conclusions about how to measure an inmate’s risk of exposure in state and federal prisons, which have seen some of the worst clusters of COVID-19 cases nationwide.

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“People change. People age out of crime, especially violent crime. That’s a young man’s game. We can’t make this a binary-nonbinary, violent-nonviolent distinction,” Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, said at a recent question-and-answer session on Facebook Live.

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