Compassionate release is a legal system that grants inmates early release from prison sentences on special grounds such as terminal illness or a child in the community with an urgent need for his or her incarcerated guardian. Compassionate release procedures, which are also known as medical release, medical parole, medical furlough and humanitarian parole, can be mandated by the courts or by internal corrections authorities. Unlike parole, compassionate release is not based on a prisoner's behavior or sentencing, but on medical or humanitarian changes in the prisoner's situation.
In 2009, Corrections systems with compassionate release procedures include the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons (often known as the BOP), Scotland, England and Wales, China, France, New Zealand and 36 of the 50 U.S. state prison systems.
Compassionate release by country
The New Zealand legal system allows compassionate release for terminal illness or pregnancy, but there are only a small number of applications each year.
- England and Wales
On August 6, 2009, it was announced that Ronnie Biggs, the last surviving member of the group of men responsible for perpetrating Britain's Great Train Robbery (1963) was released on compassionate grounds.
The Scottish legal system permits compassionate release for terminal illness. There are only a few applications per year, and most are granted. A prominent case was that of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, released on 20 August 2009 because of prostate cancer.
In the Federal Bureau of Prisons, inmates file a petition for Compassionate release with the Warden. The inmate may only initiate a request "when there are particularly extraordinary or compelling circumstances which could not reasonably have been foreseen by the court at the time of sentencing."
- Extraordinary and Compelling: A Re-Examination of the Justifications for Compassionate Release William W. Berry III University of Mississippi School of Law Maryland Law Review, Vol. 68, No. 4, 2009
- ^ "China Grants Convicted Scholars Medical Parole". The Chronicle of Higher Education. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v47/i47/47a04501.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
- http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-08-13-furloughs_N.htm "36 states release ill or dying inmates"
- Britain’s Great Train Robber Freed. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/08/world/europe/08robber.html?em
- "Scottish govt defends Lockerbie bomber's release". Associated Press. 2009-08-24. "Compassionate release is a regular feature of the Scottish system when a prisoner is near death. Of the 31 applications over the last decade, 24 prisoners have been freed on compassionate grounds in Scotland, including Megrahi. Another seven applications were turned down because the medical evidence did not support the claim."
- "Compassionate Release, Procedures For Implementation 18 USC 3582/4205", http://www.bop.gov/policy/progstat/5050_046.pdf