(The Center Square) — A national advocacy group gave Georgia a failing grade for its compassionate release programs.
The Families Against Mandatory Minimums report graded compassionate release programs for incarcerated people struggling with “extraordinary circumstances,” including terminal or age-related illnesses.
“Georgia’s compassionate release programs could use a thorough overhaul,” Mary Price, FAMM’s general counsel, told The Center Square. “For example, eligibility criteria governing terminal illness are unnecessarily and cruelly strict.
“And, while the Department of Corrections is in charge of identifying and referring sick and dying people to the Parole Board, FAMM could not locate any policies covering those important tasks,” Price, who authored the report, added. “Without policy, staff and officials may lack critical guidance they need to do their jobs.”
FAMM gave the state failing grades for its programs for medical reprieve parole due to disability or advanced age.
However, a spokesman for the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles said it has a process its members follow when considering cases.
“The state of Georgia has a medical reprieve process allowing the Parole Board to consider the conditional release of an offender meeting the medical criteria established by state law as determined by the Georgia Department of Corrections,” Steve Hayes, communications director for the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, told The Center Square. “After the Board receives the case from the Department of Corrections, the Board reviews the case and makes a decision to grant or deny the medical reprieve release.
“While the Board understands that there are different perspectives on how the Board should make decisions and who should be released, the Board has constitutional authority to make executive clemency decisions and makes decisions in the best interest of public safety and the Board is comfortable with the state’s process,” Hayes added.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles granted 53 medical reprieves in fiscal 2021.
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor