Filing a Motion for Compassionate Relief During COVID-19

Under ordinary circumstances, prisons and jails are Petri dishes for diseases. The conditions of the facilities make it much more likely that illness will spread, and it will spread quickly. Now, in the time of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we are living under extraordinary circumstances. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the country, putting the lives of millions at risk. And in the cramped quarters of a prison or jail, the inmates housed within are at an increased risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and suffering complications from the disease.

Inmates seeking to reduce exposure to coronavirus and decrease the likelihood of contracting it can explore early release options such as compassionate relief.

Social Distancing Not Possible in Jails and Prisons

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to practice social distancing. This means keeping a certain distance from others: the CDC recommends at least 6 feet. In the general population, that may be easy.

Unfortunately, in a jail or prison, social distancing is not possible. The CDC says that COVID-19 is said to be transmitted when respiratory droplets from an infected person come into contact with another individual's eyes, nose, or mouth. Inmates are housed close together and many facilities are designed to promote interaction when someone is not in their cell, making it more likely that the disease will rapidly spread in the facilities.

According to the New York Times, 524 coronavirus cases were reported at Cook County Jail in Chicago. Additionally, NBC 5 Chicago reported that one inmate at the jail died because of complications from the disease. At Stateville Correctional Center, 56 inmates were diagnosed with COVID-19, and 2 died from it.

Seeking Early Release of Inmates

With inmates being at an increased risk of COVID-19 infection, advocates assert that the best way to slow the spread of the disease in jails and prisons is to reduce the populations of the facilities. Unfortunately, Illinois' governor has not given an order to release inmates vulnerable to COVID-19 infection, and there is no quick way of getting a prison inmate released.

However, there is help for people in county jails, whether pending trial or serving their sentence. Inmates and/or their loved ones can seek early release from incarceration by submitting a motion essentially seeking compassionate relief. If granted, the inmate's sentence would be reduced or modified. Typically, a motion for compassionate relief is approved when there are "extraordinary or compelling circumstances" that would warrant a reduction in or modification to a sentence. The COVID-19 pandemic and the conditions of prisons and jails may justify an early release.

Before a judge grants compassionate relief, they will look at various factors, including, but not limited to:

  • The offense for which the inmate was incarcerated
  • The inmate's medical history and any pre-existing medical conditions
  • The extent to which an inmate's existing medical conditions have not been treated adequately
  • The inmate's criminal history
  • The length of the sentence and how much of it has been served
  • The inmate's age

Typically, we can seek to expedite a hearing on these motions, but this may be limited due to court closures.

Have Questions About Compassionate Relief? Call Johnson Law Group.

If your loved one is incarcerated and you are worried about their health and safety because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reach out to our skilled team to discuss options for early release. Our criminal defense lawyers are here to help you through the entire process.

Call us at (309) 565-8825 or contact us online today.

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