Pro Bono Client Affected by COVID-19 Secures Compassionate Release
March 25, 2021
Cleary Gottlieb represented Mr. C in his successful motion for compassionate release after he contracted COVID-19 at Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Fort Dix in New Jersey.
FCI Fort Dix has had several COVID-19 outbreaks, the most recent of which, in January 2021, was the worst prison outbreak in the U.S. at the time. More than three-quarters of the incarcerated population were affected, and one inmate died.
Mr. C was one of the inmates who tested positive during the January outbreak. He has several comorbidities associated with severe and lasting complications from COVID-19, and the virus eventually developed into pneumonia that persisted into March. Despite this, the Federal Bureau of Prisons labeled Mr. C as being recovered.
Cleary filed a motion for compassionate release on Mr. C’s behalf, citing his health issues, the poor sanitary conditions at Fort Dix, and Mr. C’s exceptional behavior while incarcerated for a nonviolent drug offense.
On March 25, 2021, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan granted Mr. C.’s motion for compassionate release and re-sentenced him to time served. Mr. C was released from prison the following day, despite having several years remaining on his sentence. This ruling established important precedent in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that a prior COVID-19 diagnosis does not foreclose compassionate release and further highlights the unacceptable health conditions that still remain in federal prisons that are struggling to cope with the care of inmates during the pandemic.