Families Against Mandatory Minimums Launches National Campaign for Compassionate Release

The explosion in incarceration over the last several decades has led to the “graying” of our inmate population, which, coupled with already over-stretched medical and mental health budgets [http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2017/10/prison-health-care-costs-and-quality], further diminishes our prisons’ capacity to ensure the basic needs of the individuals in their care. Compassionate release is one mechanism to alleviate this financial and emotional burden, but it is sadly used sparingly and often too late to be meaningful [https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2013/e1306.pdf].   On December 7, 2017, FAMM, along with 35 other organizations and individuals, aims to change this narrative — launching a national campaign for compassionate release to “urge the creation, expansion, and robust use of federal and state programs that grant early release to prisoners with compelling circumstances, such as a terminal or age-related illness.” The Campaign has endorsed “a statement of principles,” focusing on “the humanitarian, public safety, and economic benefits of granting early release to elderly prisoners, those with disabilities, or prisoners facing extreme family changes.” The Campaign is a necessary reminder that our prisons are especially punishing on older and ill prisoners, and those whose family circumstances become dire while incarcerated. Until this Campaign bears fruit, defense advocates with clients who may be candidates for this kind of relief down the road can point out to their sentencing judges that it is better to “front-end” compassionate measures rather than hope that compassion will exercised later during their time in custody.

JaneAnne Murray