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FAMM Grades The States On Their 'Compassionate Release' Practices

The sentencing-reform group FAMM issued a new report on compassionate releases from prison, including report cards for every state that grade programs designed for incarcerated people struggling with certain extraordinary circumstances, such as a terminal or age-related illness. The highest grades went to Colorado, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. “It was not surprising, but still disheartening to see so little improvement in compassionate release across the country since we first examined state compassionate release in 2018,” said Mary Price, FAMM’s general counsel. “Lawmakers across the country fund compassionate release programs that sit idle and leave people to die in prison – including during the COVID-19 pandemic. There comes a point in a person’s sentence where they are so sick that incarceration loses any meaning or worse, becomes torture. If the programs are broken and can’t be used effectively, the lawmakers should fix them.”


FAMM released a new poll finding that 70 percent of Americans, across political lines, support compassionate release programs. “At a time of concern about rising rates of crime, why are so many states wasting their limited resources to incarcerate sick and elderly people?” asked FAMM president Kevin Ring. The group graded the compassionate release programs for each state in several categories before assigning a letter grade. It found "found remarkable diversity among the 50 jurisdictions that had programs on the books. While some were more comprehensive than others, every state program provided at least one avenue to early release." Many state laws exclude individuals based on their offense of conviction, the nature of their sentence, or the length of time they have served. A number of states have very restrictive eligibility rules or poorly designed criteria that lack explanation. FAMM said it found programs with incoherent or outdated rules and sometime, in sometimes no publicly available rules. „Very few people benefited from compassionate release in 2019 and 2020. That finding was especially disturbing because COVID-19 struck prisons exceptionally hard, FAMM said.

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