81 Federal Prisoners Have Died While Waiting for the Government to Decide If They Were Sick Enough to Go Home

Since 2014, at least 81 elderly and terminally ill federal prisoners have died while waiting for the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to rule on their applications for “compassionate release,” according to a letter the Justice Department letter sent to 12 members of the Senate. The letter was obtained and published by Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

“We are disappointed but not surprised,” says Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM).* A nonprofit devoted to sentencing reform, FAMM is pushing the BOP to reduce the sentences of elderly and ill prisoners.

Congress created compassionate release in 1984, the same year it abolished parole in the federal system, in order to provide the Bureau of Prisons with a systematic method for shortening the sentences of federal prisoners whose “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances merit early release. No list of criteria constrains the BOP’s ability to grant compassionate release.

Two years ago,

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