COMPASSIONATE RELEASE CASES (COVID-19) – REMOTE PRO BONO OPPORTUNITY
 
For the last several months, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee has been working with FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ on a project to secure compassionate release for federal prisoners nationwide under the First Step Act. 
 
In addition to ongoing cases, they are working to identify prisoners who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and pursue claims on the theory that their vulnerability is an “extraordinary” circumstance. In addition, there may be provisions in the federal emergency legislation to expand the compassionate release program and shorten administrative deadlines.  They anticipate that hundreds or thousands of elderly prisoners or prisoners with serious medical conditions might be eligible for release.
 
All of the work can be performed remotely.  There are two categories to consider:
 
–  Screening.  Non-litigators and legal assistants can help screen the thousands of prisoners who are expected to request relief.  An intake questionnaire will be provided and the interview will be conducted telephonically.
– Cases.  Lawyers will receive pre-screened cases that will require: 1) interviewing the client telephonically; 2) collecting BOP records; 3) developing a discharge plan; 4) drafting a filing a motion for compassionate release before the sentencing judge; 5) preparing your client for the hearing telephonically; and 6) conducting the hearing remotely (until the courts reopen).
 
Substantial coordination and support will be provided by the referring agencies, including a model motion, bank of research, and expertise on the process and how to navigate the BOP.
 
We cannot emphasize enough the critical importance of these cases. Once COVID gets into the prison system, there is no stopping it and vulnerable prisoners will have no way to avoid infection. There is a crisis brewing before our eyes and compassionate release is one tool to limit its impact. By taking a case, you may well be saving a life.   There is a good deal of coverage on this issue, but we recommend the following two stories that explain why this is important. https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/03/19/this-chart-shows-why-the-prison-population-is-so-vulnerable-to-covid-19; https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/nyregion/nyc-coronavirus-rikers-island.html?searchResultPosition=2.
 
If you are interested in taking a case, please contact Kendell Long at the Committee – [email protected]