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August 29, 2022: COMPASSIONATE RELEASE and BOP COVID-19 BLOG


Fast Facts (Full BOP stats can be found here)


Confirmed active cases at 115 BOP facilities and 16 RRCs

Currently positive-testing inmates: 479 (up from 448) Currently positive-testing staff: 636 (up from 634) Recovered inmates currently in the BOP: 49,305 (down from 49,343) Recovered staff: 13,629 (up from 13,627)


Institutions with the largest number of currently positive-testing inmates:

Schuylkill FCI: 53 (up from 40)

Canaan USP: 39

Big Spring FCI: 23

Institutions with the largest number of currently positive-testing staff:

Central Office HQ: 58 (up from 57)

Carswell FMC: 28 (unchanged)

Brooklyn MDC: 23 (unchanged)

System-wide testing results: Presently, BOP has 141,786 federal inmates in BOP-managed institutions and 13,829 in community-based facilities. Today's stats: Completed tests: 128,718 (down from 128,723) Positive tests: 55,366 (down from 55,371)


Total vaccine doses administered: 328,524 (up from 328,441)


Case Note: First Circuit rejects government's argument that defendant is wrongly using compassionate release as an end-run around habeas and the AEDPA, but remands for a re-assessment of motion in light of U.S. v. Ruvalcaba, 26 F.4th 14 (2022)....


In U.S. v. ALFRED W. TRENKLER, Defendant, Appellee., No. 21-1441, 2022 WL 3711709 (1st Cir. Aug. 29, 2022) (William E. Smith, D.J.), the court remanded the district court's grant of compassionate release to this lifer whose sentence had illegally been imposed without a jury recommendation under then-existing law, rejecting the government's argument that the defendant was attempting an end-run around habeas and the AEDPA, but instructing the district court to re-evaluate the grant using the holistic approach adopted in the court's subsequent decision in U.S. v. Ruvalcaba, 26 F.4th 14 (2022), explaining: "As noted above, Ruvalcaba clarified that until the Sentencing Commission speaks, the only limitation on what can be considered an extraordinary and compelling reason to grant a prisoner-initiated motion is rehabilitation. 26 F.4th at 25, 26; see also id. at 23-24 (“If and when the Sentencing Commission issues updated guidance applicable to prisoner-initiated motions ... district courts ... will be required to ensure that their determinations ... are consistent with that guidance.”).12

Contrary to the government's statutory arguments otherwise, this does not alter the fact that habeas and compassionate release are distinct vehicles for relief. Section 2255 deals with the legality and validity of a conviction and provides a method for automatic vacatur of sentences (when warranted under the statute). In contrast, as Trenkler and the amici argue,13 the compassionate release statute is addressed to the court's discretion as to whether to exercise leniency based on an individualized review of a defendant's circumstances (it is not a demand of a district court to recognize and correct what a defendant says is an illegal conviction or sentence). Id. at 26 (“To serve as a safety valve, section 3582(c)(1)(A) must encompass an individualized review of a defendant's circumstances and permit a sentence reduction -- in the district court's sound discretion -- based on any combination of factors.”).... Accordingly, the government's contention that Trenkler's motion for compassionate release fails at the threshold question of whether it is a habeas petition in disguise is not persuasive and, in any event, it is now foreclosed by Ruvalcaba.15

The question really at issue here is the secondary, individualized question. That is, did Trenkler propose reasons for compassionate release that are extraordinary and compelling, under the plain meaning of those terms? See id. (noting that the terms “extraordinary” and “compelling” are afforded their plain meaning).

Ruvalcaba convincingly set the standard for a district court reviewing a prisoner's proposed reasons for compassionate release, making it clear that district courts have the discretion to review prisoner-initiated motions by taking the holistic, any-complex-of-circumstances approach we discussed earlier. Id. at 27, 28. See generally id. at 29-32 (Barron, J., concurring) (expounding, by way of example, on the “soundness” of the premise “that there may be an 'extraordinary and compelling reason' to reduce the sentence when a particular statutory change is considered in the context of the defendant's individualized circumstances”). Indeed, this approach makes sense. After all, it is possible that the whole may be greater than the sum of its parts, and reasons that might not do the trick on their own may combine to constitute circumstances that warrant a finding that the reasons proposed are, in the aggregate, extraordinary and compelling. This is not to say that a district court must find a certain number of extraordinary and compelling reasons. Rather, in conducting their reviews, district courts should be mindful of the holistic context of a defendant's individual case when deciding whether the defendant's circumstances satisfy the “extraordinary and compelling” standard -- “any complex of circumstances” contemplates that any number of reasons may suffice on a case-by-case basis, whether it's one, two, or ten. See id. at 28. Granted, Ruvalcaba did not address the merits of whether any particular reason or complex of circumstances actually met the “extraordinary and compelling” standard's substantive criteria (nor do we do so now, as we'll explain). And the Ruvalcaba court's instruction to district courts to generally consider “any complex of circumstances” does not foreclose a conclusion that certain reasons, standing alone, may be insufficient as a matter of law when measured against the “extraordinary and compelling” standard. We identified in Ruvalcaba, for example, that a change in sentencing law, standing alone, cannot suffice.

Against this backdrop, consider again the district court's reasoning in granting Trenkler's compassionate release motion.... In the end, our careful review of the district court's thorough (but pre-Ruvalcaba) decision leaves us uncertain as to whether it took a holistic approach when reviewing Trenkler's proposed reasons and ultimately concluding that the sentencing error constituted a sufficiently extraordinary and compelling reason to grant relief.

In the normal course, this is where we would come in, applying abuse-of-discretion review to assess the district court's work on the compassionate release motion, holding it up against our precedent to assess the accuracy of the analysis offered. But, at this juncture, the circumstances of this case prompt us to take a different tack.... This prudential approach is especially apt here because the district court's proposed sentence reduction, even if affirmed, would have no practical effect until sometime in the future.

On remand, the district court is permitted to consider any factual developments that have transpired since its May 2021 opinion issued, such as shifts in Trenkler's health status or the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic. We close with this: Today's opinion should not be read as a rejection or endorsement of the district court's outcome or any of its analysis of Trenkler's proposed reasons for granting compassionate release. We express no view as to what should happen on remand."


Death Watch (Note: The BOP press website announces BOP COVID-related deaths here.) The BOP has identified no new COVID-related fatalities. The total number COVID-related inmate deaths remains at 306. Eleven of the inmates died while on home confinement. Staff deaths remain at 7.

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