Friday, May 27, 2022
Haley on Compassionate Release and COVID
Mariah Haley (Columbia Law Review) has posted Unequal Treatment: (In)compassionate Release from Federal Prison in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Vaccine (Columbia Law Review, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, has wreaked havoc globally since it was first discovered in December 2019. In the United States, many federal prisons experienced outbreaks of the virus, leading to both severe illness and death. Almost as soon as the pandemic began in the United States, people in prison—especially those with preexisting conditions—turned to the statutory mechanism known as “compassionate release” to request early release from prison based on the “extraordinary and compelling” nature of the pandemic.
This Note examines how federal courts have considered compassionate release requests during the pandemic. The Note further explores the disparate outcomes resulting from the vast judicial discretion within the compassionate release space. While no two compassionate release cases are the same, with cases very fact-intensive, this Note argues that the current system results in inequitable geographical-based outcomes. In concluding, this Note calls on the United States Sentencing Commission to offer guidance to federal courts on how to approach compassionate release requests in the context of the First Step Act and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.