As COVID-19 threatened the lives of those incarcerated, compassionate release motions emerged as a critical mechanism to seek the release of those individuals most vulnerable to severe illness or death. But today, as the urgency of the pandemic diminishes and the grounds justifying release is limited in some Circuits, some may fear that compassionate release has returned to its flawed roots of being available only to a very few. This Article argues that the historical categories related to an individual’s age and health need not, and should not, be so narrowly viewed. Rather, these existing categories for compassionate release can be approached more expansively, by grounding them in an understanding of how an elderly individual’s health deteriorates in prison, and by calling attention to the inability of an incarcerated individual to access specialized and necessary medical care. Framing these categories in this way ultimately encompasses many elderly individuals in prison and those younger individuals with serious medical conditions who are receiving inadequate medical care. Given the rapidly aging federal prison population and the thousands of prisoners who suffer from significant medical conditions, many of whom have already served many years in prison and demonstrate compelling rehabilitation, these categories remain viable—and even promising— avenues for release.

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