Monday, January 26, 2015

Deflategate Also Describes BOP Compassionate Release Policy Failures

BOP Continues To Stumble On Compassionate Releases


by Derek Gilna


            The BOP Policy on Compassionate Release has steadily lost pressure and momentum since a reform of the policy was announced to great fanfare in 2013. Human Rights Watch recently added its voice to critics of the federal Bureau of Prisons' Compassionate Release Program, designed by Congress to send home its most critically-ill prisoners. Studies have shown that the average prisoner costs the federal government approximately $30,000 per year, but elderly and ill prisoners cost an average of almost $70,000 a year, with many costing much more.

            One would think that the fierce intra-agency competition for dollars in a shrinking Justice Department correctional budget should make this an obvious priority.  Common sense would indicate that the procedures for these releases should be relatively straight-forward, triggered by an internal review focusing on  a prisoner's medical records by a panel of medical professionals .  One would think that the BOP would be happy to shuttle these individuals out of their institutions and eliminate the crushing financial burden for their treatment off their books.

            Needless to say, this is not the case.  As usual, the BOP has other ideas.  Unfortunately, the BOP balances its budget not by releasing infirm, terminally ill,  and elderly prisoners, but in denying proper medical care and delaying expensive treatment of chronically ill or terminal patients.  I dare the BOP to prove me wrong.

            Make no mistake.  The BOP does grant Compassionate Releases.  I know-I got one, and it wasn't easy.  They are virtually impossible to get on your own.  You need help- help from someone that understands the system. It's like anything else in the criminal justice system.

 Sentence relief is hard to get and there are no guarantees.  Unfortunately, different cases have different facts, and what worked for one does not necessarily work for all.  Justice should be uniform, but it is not.  It's more than just listing cases; you have to know how the system works. There are many routes to relief, but not all of them are mapped out, and depend not only upon case filings but by knowing which solution has the best chance of success.  I don’t know all the answers, but at least I understand the (your) questions.


113 Mc Henry #173, Buffalo Grove, IL  60089

(847) 878-0160          



Monday, January 19, 2015

Mandatory MInimum and Prisoner Relief Legislation Pending in Congress

Further Updates on New Legislation Affecting the Incarcerated


By Derek Gilna


As those of us involved in the front lines of criminal justice reform are only too well aware, the wheels of change move all too slowly to suit the incarcerated and their families Many of the previously-introduced bills, such as Smarter Sentencing Act, Justice Safety Valve Act, and other reform legislation faded into oblivion at the end of the year (since they were not passed by the old 113th Congress), as the new,  114th Congress took office.  All of the above sentence-relief legislation will have to be reintroduced and once again referred to the judiciary committee before any substantive legislative action can take place and a bill sent to the President’s desk.  I’m not holding my breath.

Congress appears to be preoccupied with the economy, terrorism, treaty negotiations with Iran, illegal immigration, and yes, politics.  Most media headlines concentrate on the areas of disagreement between Congress and the President.  Congressional resentment over the President’s Executive action on immigration has brought to a halt most legislative initiatives on many bi-partisan issues (such as sentence reform) as the two parties maneuver for political advantage.

Although there is widespread bipartisan support for reform of firearms-enhanced laws and mandatory minimum sentences, with  all parties in apparent agreement that the justice system is broken, we will probably still have to rely upon the U.S. Sentencing Commission for constructive action over the short term.

There was, however a new bill (HR 71) introduced in the House on January 6, 2015, titled the “Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Relief Act of 2015,” which does hold some promise.  According to its sponsor, it would “direct the Bureau of Prisons, pursuant to a good time policy, to release a prisoner who has served one half or more of his or her term of imprisonment if that prisoner 1) has attained age 45; (2) has never been convicted of a crime of violence; and (3) has not engaged in any violation, involving violent conduct of institutional discipline.”  This is not unlike other previously introduced legislation that has not progressed to passage.  It has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

In the meantime, those looking for sentence relief will have to go about it the old-fashioned way, through the courts, the clemency process, and BOP programs like Compassionate Release.  If I can be of assistance to you in this or other related matters, I invite your inquiry.


113 McHenry #173, Buffalo Grove, IL 60089

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Federal Prison Release Plans

How Are You Planning For your Release?


By Derek Gilna


            For most federal prisoners, at some point in time you will be released.  What is your plan for when that happens? As shown by some of the recent two-level sentence reductions, even some of those prisoners with “life” sentences are getting “out-dates.”  These motions give the original sentencing judge an opportunity to revisit the facts of your case in light of recent changes in not only the law, but also public opinion. Although the overall impact on federal prison counts is uncertain at this time, clemencies have been advanced as yet another way to reduce a life sentence.

 More news articles have appeared in main-stream media about the dysfunctional US criminal justice system, about how federal over-sentencing does nothing to reduce the crime rate, and as a result pressure continues to build to eliminate life sentences except for serious, violent crimes and to reduce other sentences. Also remember that every law suit filed against the DOJ and BOP increases pressure on those agencies to conform to the ideals of justice.

            For the vast majority of federal prisoners who did not receive life sentences, the question remains about what you should concentrate on while you are incarcerated.  I have always been of the opinion that you should follow two tracks: one, fighting your incarceration or length of sentence, as well as conditions of confinement (such as poor medical care), and two, vigorously pursuing any positive activity that might improve your chances for success after you are released.

            The two go hand-in-hand.  The reality is that you are locked up, so you might as well use the time wisely.  Take every program offered to build your life skill-set, and to get your mind thinking positively and help you interact with other people of different backgrounds.  Consider participating in religious activities, or sports, both activities that will improve you physical and spiritual health. Remember judges often look at what you have accomplished while locked up when they are reviewing petitions for various types of relief.

            Finally, no one is suggesting that you need passively sit idle without challenging the criminal justice system, by using that very system to reduce your sentence, win your release, or at the very least improve the conditions of your confinement. Remember you are never defeated if you never give up.  Also remember that you have an advocate.

113 McHenry Rd., #173

Buffalo Grove, Il  60089

(847) 878-0160




Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2015 News Update

First, a quick news update. The new Congress began its work yesterday, which we sincerely hope will include some action on the sentencing relief measures that have been stalled for the past several months while the politicians concentrated more on getting reelected than in taking care of business. A few more executive clemencies have been granted, but hopefully there are many more to come.  Some two-level reductions have come through, but many filed pro se have been opposed by the DOJ and held up for the time being, so that bears watching.

            I was able to get a compassionate release granted last year, with several more pending, and have gotten sentence relief for several individuals via the two-level route.  In habeas news, I am involved in an evidentiary hearing coming up next month in Washington, D.C. that should be successful in getting a federal sentence reduced to time-served.  I have gotten some sentence relief for clients that I have worked with. I am in the process of drafting two separate lawsuits for wrongful death against the federal government for negligent medical treatment.  I am also researching possible legal action against the BOP for failure to properly implement its Compassionate Release policy in the manner mandated by Congress. Needless to say, 2015 should be an interesting year.

            Additionally, I have made myself available as a contractor to assist several pre judgment prisoners, who have not yet been sentenced, in an effort to mitigate their possible sentences.  In this role, I can often identify issues either overlooked or ignored by defense counsel, especially the “high-motivated” (not) public defenders or appointed, court-paid counsel.

            In any event, I welcome hearing your questions and your concerns, to make this experience a little more bearable, and perhaps, a bit shorter.  Keep in touch, and tell your friends.


Derek Gilna, 113 McHenry Rd, #173, B.G. IL 60089