As the COVID-19 pandemic continues unabated, federal courts throughout the country have been inundated with motions for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. Section 3582(c)(1)(A) filed by federal prisoners. For decades, only the Bureau of Prisons, or BOP, could file motions under the statute. That changed in 2018 when Congress passed the First Step Act, which allows prisoners to file their own motions for compassionate release.

6th Circuit SpotlightIn United States v. Jones (No. 20-3701), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently resolved a key question regarding the First Step Act’s effect on compassionate-release determinations: do the guidelines on what constitute “extraordinary and compelling reasons” for compassionate release that apply when the BOP files a motion also apply when a prisoner files his own motion? The court held the answer is no. Rather, when a prisoner files his own motion, a district court has “full discretion” to define the phase “extraordinary and compelling.” The Sixth Circuit’s decision likely will aid prisoners seeking compassionate release in the circuit.

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