Victoria Law on Aging, Sick and Incarcerated: The Need for Compassionate Release
Date:  06-21-2016

Federal compassionate release program described by OIG as "poorly managed and implemented inconsistently"
Via Truthout

Mary Ziman already had debilitating fibromyalgia and, unable to work, was on permanent disability. Then she was arrested and sentenced to 27 years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine, charges she says stemmed from fabrications by a woman with mental illness caught with drugs and a gun. That was 17 years ago.

)Now 67 years old, Ziman has three cancerous spots on her left lung, requires the use of three inhalers and has only 51 percent lung capacity. She is also blind in one eye and has a cataract in the other. In March 2016, after repeatedly complaining to medical staff at the federal prison in Victorville, California, she was hospitalized for a kidney infection stemming from an untreated urinary tract infection. She spent 10 days in the hospital where tests found that she suffered from anemia, arthritis, a hernia and problematic potassium levels affecting her heart. Additionally, Ziman now requires hip and knee surgery.

In April, not long after her release from the hospital, Ziman suffered another devastating blow. The Office of the Pardon Attorney denied her request for clemency, or a commutation lessening the length of her sentence and allowing her to return home early. (Clemency can also take the form of a pardon, which expunges the conviction altogether.) There is no appeal for such a denial. Instead, Ziman must wait an entire year before she can submit another request for clemency. However, Ziman does have some hope for another route forward: She has filed a petition for compassionate release, which, if granted, would allow her to return home to her nine children, 28 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Compassionate release is a policy that allows for the early release of incarcerated people who are aging or terminally ill so that they can die at home surrounded by loved ones. The policy is used very sparingly: In 2013, the Office of the Inspector General found that, on average, only 24 people are granted compassionate release each year. Read the complete article here.