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Is Your Loved One Available for Compassionate Release?

Prisons exist to keep dangerous members of society away from the general public. But what happens when a prisoner falls terminally ill or develops a debilitating chronic disease? In these cases, prisoners can petition for compassionate release, or a temporary medical release from a prison when an inmate’s medical circumstances and overall health outweigh the terms of their imprisonment.

In the COVID-19 era, this demand for compassionate release has become even more pressing. Between March and May, 10,940 federal prisoners applied for compassionate release, but wardens only approved 156 of them. Some wardens in Louisiana and Texas didn’t respond to these requests at all during this time window, with others responding only with denials. Even more tragically, Washington officials overturned 73 of the 84 approvals, leaving prisoners no choice but to fight these denials in court.

How Florida is Handling Compassionate Release

Florida’ state regulations for compassionate release are among some of the most stringent. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) notes that these current rules are not sufficient enough to handle this swell in requests following the COVID-19 outbreak, and has encouraged Governor DeSantis to identify and safely release the most vulnerable prisoners. What’s more, they’ve also requested a special legislative session with the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) to give them more legal authority to release low-risk and vulnerable prisoners while maintaining resources for the remaining, incarcerated prisoners.

Is My Loved One Eligible for Compassionate Release?

In Florida, compassionate release is known as ‘conditional medical release,’ or a temporary release of nonviolent inmates the FDC defines as “permanently incapacitated” or “terminally ill.” Inmates who violate the terms of their release will be returned to prison.

Unfortunately, the FDC does not have the blanket authority to release prisoners before they’ve served the terms of their sentences, but there are a few ways your loved one can get out on compassionate release if they test positive for COVID-19. Usually, your loved one will have to be experiencing serious respiratory issues, suffer from an autoimmune disorder like Crohn’s, or suffer from a chronic health condition like hypertension or diabetes, which when paired with COVID-19 could greatly increase their chance of death.

Courts are also likely to grant compassionate release if the incidences of COVID-19 cases in your loved one’s prison is particularly high. Ultimately, the Florida Commission for Offender Review (FCOR) has the final say in whether your loved one will be temporarily let out on compassionate release. What’s more, FCOR will deny compassionate release on the basis of a positive COVID-19 case if the inmate does not present any comorbidities, is not permanently incapacitated, or is not terminally ill.

Petkovich Law Firm’s team of empathetic, experienced, and determined personal injury lawyers have the courtroom experience and legal know-how to advocate for your loved one’s compassionate release. To learn more about how we can best serve you, call us today at 305-358-8003.


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