Sentencing Guideline Changes Coming for Terminally Ill and Others
Good news in the federal sentencing department. Guideline changes set to take effect November 1 unless Congress acts to ban them include a provision giving judges greater discretion in granting compassionate release for dying prisoners.
A safety-valve provision for compassionate release for the dying is in the original sentencing law but it hasn't been effective.
But advocates for inmates say the way the statute is actually carried out is anything but compassionate. Few terminally ill inmates are approved for release, and the bureaucracy is such that even when people are approved, they often die before they get out. The advocates also contend that prison officials have misconstrued the original intent of Congress and interpreted the grounds for release much too narrowly.
Now, in a departure from the tough sentencing policies that it has legislated for more than two decades, Congress is poised to allow guidelines to go into effect starting Nov. 1 that would give federal judges much greater power to release federal inmates.
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