News Release

Federal Compassionate Release Clearinghouse Celebrates Milestones and Continues Recruiting Volunteer Attorneys

Washington, DC (Dec. 22, 2020) – As of today, the Federal Compassionate Release Clearinghouse, a collaborative pro bono effort from NACDL, FAMM, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and the Federal Public and Community Defenders, has secured release for 174 individuals through its emergency release initiative, including 12 individuals who were serving life sentences. The Clearinghouse launched its emergency release initiative in April to recruit attorneys, social workers, and medical professionals to work on compassionate release motions for prisoners serving federal sentences who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. 

With the passage of the First Step Act in December 2018, federal compassionate release was expanded to allow prisoners to file compassionate release motions directly with their sentencing courts, and to allow sentencing courts’ discretion to reduce sentences based on “extraordinary and compelling reasons.” COVID-19 is an “extraordinary and compelling reason,” and therefore the Compassionate Release Clearinghouse continues to seek volunteer attorneys to draft and file compassionate release motions for prisoners.  

In addition to secured releases, the Compassionate Release Clearinghouse has: 

  • Recruited 702 attorneys to take cases pro bono,
  • Received 5,005 requests for assistance, and
  • With our partners in the Federal Public and Community Defenders, submitted 1,005 motions for compassionate release.

"It is incredible to see all of the attorneys who have stepped up during this crisis and given their time and energy in order to save lives," said Counsel and Director of NACDL’s First Step Act Resource Center Elizabeth Blackwood. "COVID-19 has continued to spread, and the best way to assist those incarcerated individuals most at-risk of COVID-19 in federal prison is through compassionate release motions."

"The spread of COVID-19 has made our prisons more dangerous than ever before," said FAMM President Kevin Ring. "The lawyers stepping up to assist the Clearinghouse are saving lives every day. It’s difficult to think of a more meaningful endeavor at a moment when so many people desperately need our help."

The Clearinghouse continues to recruit additional attorneys and law firms to join in the effort. To learn more and volunteer, please visit:


Kate Holden, NACDL Public Affairs and Communications Associate, (202) 465-7624 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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