Pressure Builds on Bureau of Prisons to Release Elderly and Sick Inmates

A coalition of political advocacy groups, criminal justice reformers, and religious organizations sent a letter Thursday to Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Mark Inch asking him to reform the bureau’s compassionate release program.

Compassionate release was created by Congress in 1984 to provide an administrative mechanism for shortening the sentences of prisoners in “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances. Since then, BOP has used compassionate very infrequently and only for terminally ill prisoners. But even folks knocking on death’s door have been denied early release, or died while waiting for an answer.

The letter campaign marks the latest major push in the last four years to get the BOP to help sick and elderly prisoners understand and apply for the program. The agency has ignored similar requests from the Justice Department Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The BOP has also declined to explain to Congress or the


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