Senators push federal prisons to expand compassionate release

Senators push federal prisons to expand compassionate release
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A bipartisan group of senators are calling on federal prison officials to follow through on recommendations to expand the use of compassionate release.

In a letter Thursday, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and 11 other senators asked acting Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Thomas Kane and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to take a serious look at a prison bureau program that allows federally incarcerated people to appeal for early release if they present certain “extraordinary and compelling” reasons.

The lawmakers, who include Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Senate panel advances Trump's CIA nominee Doug Jones to oppose Haspel as CIA chief MORE (R-Utah), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenRising star Abrams advances in Georgia governor race Progressive rise is good news for Sanders, Warren Juan Williams: Trump gives life to the left MORE (D-Mass.), John CornynJohn CornynHouse easily passes prison reform bill backed by Trump Senate panel clears bill to bolster probes of foreign investment deals McConnell tells senators he might scrap August recess MORE (R-Texas) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), pointed to a 2013 report in which the Department of Justice inspector general recommended expanding the compassionate release program to deal with the increasingly large number of aging inmates with serious medical conditions.

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Though the senators said the BOP adopted new policies following that report to expand its criteria, none of the 203 elderly inmates who applied under medical reasons in the 13 months following the report were approved.

Last year, the U.S. Sentencing Commission expanded and clarified the criteria for age and family circumstances that make an inmate eligible for compassionate release and encouraged the BOP to file a motion for release if an inmate meets the new policy.

In light of these changes, the senators asked Kane and Rosenstein how many compassionate release requests received in the last three years have been granted and denied, how many petitioners have died waiting for a response, what steps the bureau has taken to follow the commission’s directives and what action the bureau can take to increase its use of compassionate release.

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