Allow Terminally Ill Inmates to Die Outside of Prison

Compassionate Release Program

Target: Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Charles Samuels, Jr.

Goal: Establish clear guidelines for early release of terminally ill inmates

Compassionate release is an early release program afforded to inmates who become terminally ill while serving time in prison. Unfortunately, the program lacks clear guidelines for eligibility, moves too slowly and is not afforded to enough inmates. Please sign this petition demanding that the Federal Bureau of Prisons update the compassionate release program to perform as intended.

Almost 30 years ago, the compassionate release program was passed by Congress to provide terminally ill inmates an early way out. The program was intended to reduce medical costs and allow select inmates to die among loved ones. A recent investigation by the Justice Department found that the compassionate release program is poorly managed and very confusing. The process can be challenging because inmates can only apply after they prove that they have less than a certain number of months to live. Inmates must also complete the application themselves, which can be challenging due to health restrictions. These are only some of the issues that come up for inmates, there are a slew of concerns on the administrative side as well.

The Justice Department’s investigation identified a number of foundation issues that make the program impossible to execute. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is responsible for implementing the compassionate program, however, according to the results of the Justice Department’s investigation, “The BOP does not have clear standards on when compassionate release is warranted, resulting in ad hoc decision making.” The Justice Department’s investigation also cited a lack of timeliness standards for reviewing requests, which can result in inmate death prior to getting a response. The BOP does not have an effective procedure to even inform inmates about the program, nor do they have a system to track all requests, or account for stakeholder review. Although the current system is very broken, the Justice Department’s investigation did show financial benefit for the BOP if a proper program is implemented.

Please sign this petition demanding that the Federal Bureau of Prisons redesign and effectively implement the compassionate release program for eligible inmates who meet certain criteria.


Dear Mr. Samuels Jr.,

The compassionate release program afforded to terminally ill inmates is in complete disarray according to a recent investigation by the Department of Justice. It appears every aspect of the program from inmate eligibility, to timelines, to standards for qualifying, are up to subjective interpretation by prison officials. The program is broken and failing to do either of the two things it is intended; reduce cost and provide terminal inmates a dignified death.

After reading only portions of the Justice Department’s investigation of the compassionate release program it is evident that there needs to be a major overhaul in how the program operates. First and foremost inmates need to be made aware that early release is an option depending on the severity of illness and nature of convicted crime. Only then could an inmate jump through the hoops to possibly be afforded an outside death. The evaluation process must also be formalized to include who contributes to the ultimate decision, and under what time constraints these decisions need to be made. Logistical procedures must account for the restrictions someone may face as a terminally ill inmate. Only until these aspects are made sound will the program work as it was intended.

According to a National Public Radio (NPR) article, “Mary Price, a lawyer at Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which advocates for inmates and their relatives, says only about two dozen inmates a year get compassionate release, though thousands may be eligible under that program – including more than 100 inmates who are over age 80.”

It is absolutely mandatory that the compassionate release program start working under guidelines that made sense and afford the opportunity to as many inmates as are eligible. As director of the BOP it is your responsibility to respond to the Justice Department’s investigation with swift action.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: steinhospice.blogspot via Yahoo

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53 Signatures

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