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The number of federal inmates released early as a result of “compassionate relief” increased more than twelve-fold in 2020, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC).
In a special report assessing the impact of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the First Step Act of 2018, the USSC reported that 1,085 offenders were released early—representing 25.7 percent of those who applied for compassionate release.
Senior U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer, Acting Chair of the Commission said the “dramatic” increase from the 2019 release figures—some 145 inmates—showed the Act was working as intended.
“Prior to the enactment of the First Step Act, only the Director of the Bureau of Prisons could file compassionate release motions,” Breyer said in a statement accompanying the report. “The First Step Act enables defendants to file these motions directly in federal court after exhausting administrative requirements.
“These changes, coupled with the pandemic, resulted predictably in a dramatic increase in both motions for and grants of compassionate release.”
During fiscal year 2020, the average reduction in sentence was nearly five years (59 months) and more than 40 percent (42.6 percent) of the offender’s sentence, the report found.
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