If you have a loved one who is currently serving time, it might be possible to have them released early from prison or jail.

This is done through a process known as compassionate release, or “recall of sentence.” Compassionate release is used to release someone from jail or prison early because of an immediate medical or humanitarian reason.

For example, if a prisoner becomes chronically or terminally ill while in prison and this person is determined to not be a threat to society, he or she can be granted an early release.

Compassionate release in the COVID-19 era

In an effort to curb the COVID-19 danger to elderly or chronically ill prisoners, governments around the country have begun releasing inmates from jails and prisons. To date, around 3,500 inmates in California have been released early.

According to the California prison medical system, over a third of the 123,000 incarcerated people in the state have at least one health condition that puts them at increased risk to COVID-19. Add to that the fact that one third of inmates in California live in open bunks, where beds are spaced two feet apart.

California inmates who have been released early during the COVID-19 crisis have typically been those who were either convicted of nonviolent offenses or are at high risk of complications from the virus due to age or medical condition.

Petition for compassionate release in California

petition for compassionate release in californiaCompassionate release is available to terminally ill inmates who have 18 months or less to live. They must also demonstrate that they are not a risk to society.

Eligibility has expanded somewhat during the COVID-19 era, so if you are exploring compassionate release as an option for someone, it is best to speak directly with a criminal defense attorney who can review your case in full and give you specific advice.

The process involves petitioning the jail warden or court to bring awareness to the inmate’s condition. If the warden determines that there is insufficient evidence to show that the inmate is a candidate for early release, the warden will reject the petition outright.

If the petition is accepted, the warden will convene a committee to investigate the case further. This is the phase where the state will work to determine if the inmate’s medical condition warrants their release and that they aren’t a danger to society.

Medical probation in California

If compassionate release is not possible, medical probation is another option for early release from California jails and prisons.

Medical probation is typically given to inmates who: 

  • Have medical conditions that keep them from performing basic activities each day; or
  • Require round-the-clock care in a hospital or rehabilitation setting.

The main difference between compassionate release and medical probation is that the inmate is required to finish their sentence once their medical condition improves.

Just like compassionate release, these guidelines are very broad. For example, courts in California have previously granted medical probation petitions because inmates had lost close family members and were in severe states of mourning.

Especially during the COVID-19 era, when governments are trying to reduce the populations of local jails and prisons, it is best to speak directly with an attorney to understand the best options available to you.

Federal petition for compassionate release

Federal inmates can also receive compassionate release from their sentences. Federal prisons can grant early releases for inmates who fall into any of these categories:

  • Terminally ill with life expectancy of 18 months or less
  • Permanently, “completely and substantially” disabled
  • At least 70 years old, and have been in prison 30 years or more
  • 65 or older, and suffering from a chronic or serious age-related condition
  • 65 or older, and has served either 10 years imprisonment or 75% of their sentence
  • Have a child under 18, and the caregiver has either died or become incapacitated
  • Have a spouse who has become incapacitated due to illness or injury

Starting the compassionate release petition process

“Robert Helfend is one of the best criminal defense attorneys I’ve ever worked with. He was so knowledgeable, and always made sure I understood everything every step of the way. I would definitely recommend him to anyone who wants an understanding, caring, and truly helpful lawyer.”Pat, CA

No matter the circumstances behind your request, working with a criminal defense attorney can give your compassionate release petition the best chance for success.

While the process seems very simple, there are a number of nuances involved with the petition process that an experienced attorney can navigate, saving you time and helping to get your loved one released sooner.

If you are exploring compassionate release for a loved one, call us today for your free case review — 800-834-6434. Robert M. Helfend has practiced criminal defense in the Los Angeles area since 1984, securing thousands of favorable judgments for his clients in that time. He is rated as a National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Attorney, Lead Counsel Attorney and SuperLawyers Rated Attorney.