Compassionate Release for Inmates


Compassionate release (technically called “deferment of sentence”) allows sick inmates to be released from prison early if certain requirements are met. The requirements are laid out in a Pennsylvania statute, codified as 42 Pa. C.S. § 9777, which allows an inmate’s sentencing judge to grant relief upon review of a properly filed motion.

Compassionate release can be allowed under two circumstances. First, a judge can grant an inmate compassionate release to a hospital or long-term care nursing facility if the inmate (1) is seriously ill; (2) is expected to live for less than one year; and (3) needs medical treatment that can be better provided at an outside facility.

Second, a judge can grant an inmate compassionate release to a hospice provider if the inmate is: (1) terminally ill; (2) no longer able to walk; (3) expected to die in the near future; and (4) in need of medical treatment better provided by an outside facility. Under this law, if the motion is granted, the original sentence is not changed in any way. Rather, a person’s obligation to serve the balance of the sentence is delayed, or “deferred.” If the prisoner dies while under outside medical care, this distinction does not matter. But if the prisoner unexpectedly recovers, the balance of the sentence will have to be served.

(Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project)


Guide to Compassion Release in Pennsylvania – This 2014 guide explains the law surrounding compassionate release and provides sample pleadings and additional documents for reference.

Download (PDF)