When COVID-19 hit back in the early part of the year, nobody knew it would cause this many problems worldwide. The B.O.P. started making changes in March by cancelling in-person visitation. This led to more changes, such as “semi-lockdowns” to help prevent the spread of the disease. I was working in the food service warehouse of MCFP Springfield and was deemed essential and continued to work.
Around mid-May of this year, I was only three months to my release and decided I wanted some time off to get ready. At this point, I was working seven days a week from 6 AM – 3 PM (sometimes later). So my replacement took over. Also, during this time, I submitted my request for compassionate release to the warden due to “extraordinary or compelling reasons” based on my existing health problems and the effects of COVID-19. I suffered from hypertension, asthma, eczema (dermatitis), and a very rare blood cancer called polycythemia vera.
So I submitted my request to the warden in mid-April and after being denied, I began the appeal process, but after thirty days had lapsed, I decided to file directly with my sentencing court. While legal research is great, I am a believer of statistics. They are accurate, but can also be skewed in any way possible to favor one side or the other. So I made a comparison of the B.O.P.’s growing case count and the United States in general. Between the same time period, the B.O.P.’s case count grew at a rate six times higher than the general population.
Recently, I sent out an email on Corrlinks where I detailed the B.O.P.’s data showing the amount of testing done on inmates and the positivity rate. The B.O.P. claimed the rate was rather low, but some locations, such as FCI Seagoville showed a positivity rate close to 100%! of the total inmate population! So the problem is not under control despite the efforts of the B.O.P. So, I used these statistics to help present my case. Also, any medical information you can present on your conditions and how they can be affected by the coronavirus or other diseases, is a huge benefit. If you have any friends in the medical field that would be willing to write a brief affidavit discussing how your medical conditions are exasperated by COVID-19, this is a huge benefit as well.
The closer you are to release is a plus as well. Unfortunately, not all judges feel this way. I had a friend who was serving a sentence for distribution of anabolic steroids. He is only six months until his full release and less than a month away from his home eligibility date. He also suffers from end state renal failure and is on dialysis. Yet, his judge twice denied his request with no reason given really. So, there is no guarantee you will have any luck.
You also have to prove that your release from prison early would not put society at risk. Obviously, being close to the end of your sentence is a help, but present any evidence you have of your positive change. Include a copy of your program review or progress report paperwork, any certificates, letters of recommendation, job leads upon release, release plans, financial plans, and so forth. All of this shows the judge that you truly are making an effort to change and ready yourself for reentry back in society as a law abiding citizen.
However, getting out of prison can be a scary, but exciting thing. Even though I did the majority of my case myself, I was appointed a public defender, who added a few more things. But, I felt very confident that my motion would be granted. Others did not. Even my own family was skeptical. They didn’t want me to get false hope. But, I really knew I would get it. Finally, on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, I had woken up from a nap about 2 PM and had the unit officer (who ironically was my former unit secretary), my case manager and my unit manager all come looking for me at the same time. I went into my unit team office, signed my paperwork and called my mother. On that day, our phones and computers were down, so I was forced to use the unit manager’s phone.
My mother didn’t recognize me at first, but once she realized it was true, she started crying. I lived about 3 1/2 hours from the prison, so they drove up to pick me up around 6:30 that evening and we drove home. I was still skeptical as the truck they pulled up in, I didn’t recognize. I only realized upon getting in, my brother had just bought a new truck that I wasn’t aware of.
I spent two weeks on quarantine at home and was fortunate that my probation officer and the sheriff’s office were very understanding. I didn’t have to report to register until after my quarantine and didn’t meet my probation officer in person until I had been out nearly a month. I also was able to find not one, but two jobs within two weeks of beginning my search. I couldn’t physically handle the first one, but was given a chance at a convenience store. It’s now been just under a month later and starting this week, I will be the new closer, which means I have gained enough trust to be given a key to the store and working by myself.
I also was ordered to undergo treatment eventually, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, this has been put on hold. So earlier this week, I begin looking for local therapists dealing with sex offenders. I contacted four and two called back and both recommended the same person. So I am awaiting hearing back from him and hope to get started.
As far as my motions go for the legal aspects, you can download them from my website below. This can give you an idea on how I presented my case and the judge’s opinion.
*Compassionate Release Motion
*Supplement to Compassionate Release Motion
*Court Order Granting Compassionate Release Motion