Federal Inmate Obtains Compassionate Release From Prison Due to Coronavirus Concerns

A federal inmate recently obtained compassionate release from the federal prison system due to Coronavirus concerns. In United States v. Branch, 15-cr-199, Doc. 296 (M.D. Fla. August 3, 2020) (Scriven, J.), the inmate had completed the majority of his sentence on drug charges and was to be released to a residential re-entry center where he feared contracting Coronavirus. As stated in the Order:

Branch contends that the RRC to which he is to be released on August 4, 2020 has “five inmates who (have) tested positive for Covid-19” and that he is “especially vulnerable to the threat of Covid-19” due to his health conditions of “diabetes” and “Bell’s Palsy”, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. (Dkt. 293) Branch states that while he has been unable to obtain his official medical records due to the large number of Covid19 cases at his current facility, he attaches prescription evidence to his Motion which supports his claimed health conditions. (Id.) Branch further contends that the Covid-19 guidelines are “impossible to follow at a halfway house, where there [are] 6 beds to a room,” and that being released to that facility will not provide adequate safety measures given his underlying health conditions. (Id.) Branch advises that his residence in Manatee County is a 5 bedroom, 2,200 plus square foot home where he would reside with his wife and children. (Id.)

The Government did not oppose the motion, and noted that the inmate’s age (he was 42), along with his conditions, placed him at increased risk from Coronavirus. However, the Government requested that the defendant be confined to his home for the remainder of his sentence rather than released outright. The Court therefore modified Branch’s sentence to provide for home confinement in lieu of the residential re-entry center. In doing so, the Court cited to recent opinions in other jurisdictions providing for similar relief.

Michael P. Beltran is Counsel in our Florida office.