Compassionate Release: The Impact of the First Step Act and COVID-19 Pandemic   [open pdf - 3MB]

From the Introduction: "This publication describes trends in compassionate release decisions during fiscal year 2020 (October 2019-September 2020), focusing on the continuing impact of the First Step Act and the more recent and dramatic impact of the SARS-CoV-2 [severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2] ('COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019]') pandemic. It includes detailed information about the reasons courts cited to grant or deny section 3582(c)(1)(A) motions and, for offenders granted a sentence reduction, the nature of the relief received. [...] Notably, this report examines the use of compassionate release during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, an anomalous period in the evolution of compassionate release. Although facilitated by the First Step Act's legal changes, the dramatic increase in both motions for, and grants of, compassionate release was a direct consequence of the pandemic. The overwhelming majority of compassionate release decisions studied in this report occurred during the second half of the fiscal year, after the onset of the pandemic. Fewer than seven percent of the offenders within the study group received a compassionate release decision during the first half of fiscal year 2020. And, after the study period ended, the number of offenders granted compassionate release substantially decreased, as did the number of compassionate release decisions overall. As a result, this report largely focuses on the early response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is not reflective of later trends in compassionate release, once COVID-19 vaccines became widely available, or predictive of future trends."

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U.S. Sentencing Commission: https://www.ussc.gov/
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