A dear client (Let’s call him “Richard”) received my contact information from someone inside a federal prison. He was very ill and applied for Compassionate Release. The Bureau of Prisons dragged their bureaucratic feet with his request taking about half a year to give him a response. This response was typical: a smoke screen and a decoy something to the effect of “you used the wrong form so start over”.
Once Richard and I made contact I was able to communicate with an outside, non-BOP physician who wrote a letter stating Richard was terminal and had 18-24 months to live. Surely this letter would urge the BOP to order Richard released. After all, Richard seemed a clear candidate for compassionate release according to the exact words of BOPs program statement. (You can read the Compassionate Release official policy here:
The Warden responded quickly to the physician’s letter. BOP is not used to an attorney commandeering the Compassionate Release process on behalf of an inmate. It’s a lot easier for BOP staff to coerce, manipulate, and brush aside an inmate’s request for compassionate release. Reality is, many of these inmates don’t know how to begin or maintain the tedious bureaucratic process set with traps to derail the inmate’s request. The truth is clear: The Bureau of Prisons refuses to obey Congress and refuses to release terminal inmates.
Even with clear evidence that Richard was terminal, the Office of General Counsel and Director Charles E. Samuels, Jr. denied Richard’s request for compassionate release. When Richard committed his drug trafficking crime 23 years prior, he possessed a firearm. Did not use or brandish a firearm, but merely possessed a firearm. They hid behind this fact, claiming Richard posed a risk to society if he was released. An elderly dying man poses a risk of gun violence to society!?
Fortunately Richard was eligible for a sentence reduction via an alternate route. Congress enacted amendments to drug trafficking sentences. If the sentencing judge would agree, Richard would be at “time served” and could be a free man.
The sentencing court was the Northern District of Illinois. I live in Florida! Lo and behold, I paid a $200 fee to enter the Illinois courthouse as a guest. And by enter, I don’t mean walk in the door. By “enter the courthouse”, I am referring to the ability to file pleadings and motions pro hac vice, into that court electronically.
I was able to work effectively with the Prosecutor for that district and file a joint motion for reduction in sentence. Even the Government had to agree that Richard was clearly eligible for a reduction in sentence, and they had no reason to oppose his freedom. The Judge ruled on the motion without need for a hearing. I received a copy of the order via email. This was not just an order. This was a document that I held on behalf of Richard that meant his 23 years in prison was over. This Court Order was Freedom, Liberation, and Justice itself. A human life now free.
For less than the cost of a plane ticket to Illinois, a man was freed from prison with just a laptop computer.