Pursuant to section 3582(c)(1)(A) of title 18, United States Code, courts are authorized to reduce a defendant’s term of imprisonment based on “extraordinary and compelling reasons.” When considering any motion under section 3582(c)(1)(A) (commonly referred to as “compassionate release” motions), the court must find, after considering the factors set forth in section 3553(a), that “extraordinary and compelling reasons” warrant such a reduction and that any reduction “is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.”
Before December 2018, courts were authorized to consider motions under section 3582(c)(1)(A) only if they were filed by the Director of the Bureau of Prisons. In December 2018, Congress amended that portion of section 3582 to authorize courts to also consider motions filed by offenders, in certain circumstances.
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the courts received thousands of compassionate release motions, most filed by offenders. This report provides an analysis of the compassionate release motions filed with the courts during the COVID-19 pandemic. The data in this report is limited to motions decided by the courts during calendar years 2020 and 2021 (January 1, 2020 - June 30, 2021) for which the Commission received or obtained court documentation and completed its analysis by August 31, 2021.