San Francisco's top U.S. prosecutor will no longer require defendants pleading guilty during the coronavirus pandemic to wait at least 180 days before seeking release if they become seriously ill in prison.
“Compassionate release” allows prisoners in federal custody who are dying or gravely ill to ask a judge to be transferred to home confinement if the judge determines it would not endanger the public. A 2018 federal law allows the inmate to go to court 30 days after seeking release from the prison warden.
U.S. Attorney David Anderson's office in San Francisco had imposed an additional condition in plea agreements, which resolve the majority of criminal cases: After being turned down by the warden, the inmate had to appeal to the U.S Bureau of Prisons within 10 days and could not go to court until at least 180 days after the warden's rejection.
In a ruling last Monday that rejected a plea agreement for an Oakland man charged with selling drugs in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood, U.S. district Judge Charles Breyer called Anderson's requirement legally unauthorized and “appallingly cruel,” and said the waiting period could be “devastating for a prisoner with a terminal illness or children left uncared for.”
Anderson's office is waiving any waiting period to file for compassionate release, as it could be imperative to the health of an inmate.
You can read more about a compassionate release that was considered due to COVID-19 here: United States v. Raia, — F.3d —, 2020 WL 1647922 (3d Cir. April 2, 2020)