Woman in Prison Denied Compassionate Release to Take Care of her Husband with Muscular Dystrophy
Is there no alternative to incarceration when there are mitigating circumstances, or when someone at home needs help? White collar criminals or those who commit crimes dealing with money and non-violence should have other alternatives to punishment than just sitting in prison, wasting tax payer’s money, and wondering what is going on with their critically ill family on the outside.
Take the story of Connie, a woman who sits in prison for 12 years for mail fraud (the minimum sentence is 20 years) with a husband at home who has Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, a disease that damages the muscles and currently has no cure.
Connie and her husband Rex have no children, no other family, and they can’t afford a nurse. While Connie sits in prison, Rex is alone at home with no one to take care of him. His health is steadily declining to the point where he is losing weight and is unable to prepare his own meals.
The only communication for Connie and Rex is a five-minute video call in the morning and five minutes at night. Connie can see how much Rex has deteriorated, but she can do nothing. Once when Connie was three years into her sentence, she listened to Rex’s voice, and the words were slurred and almost incoherent. He told her the side of his face felt funny, and Connie had him immediately call the paramedics. It turned out, Rex had suffered a stroke. All Connie could do at that point was wait until she heard back from Rex, and during this time, she was desperate, anxious, inconsolable, and locked up.
Connie and Rex did see each other on their 50th wedding anniversary, but that was two years ago. Now Rex falls getting out of the bathtub, and when he falls, it is difficult to get back up. Several months ago, he fell on the stairs at the condo and hit his head, so now the VA is trying to find him some housing. Unfortunately, Connie, as an inmate, is not eligible for social security, so their money is scarce. Connie has written letters to local clergy to find help, but nothing seems to be happening.
Connie started researching “compassionate release,” which is a federal program that allows inmates to apply for early prison release in certain situations. Situations can include when you are sick, or the only possible caretaker of someone who is sick is the family member. You also need your warden’s approval and approval from the Central Office at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In her own petition, Connie included a doctor’s statement saying that Rex's body is deteriorating, he can hardly pick up a cup and he has little or no money. When she first applied, the warden approved her request, however, the Bureau of Prisons denied it.
While her husband is desperately ill, has no money, and has no caretaker, Connie Farris is 73 and is still trying. She knows that her husband is in dire circumstances and she can help if only given a chance. But the last words of the Bureau of Prisons were: “It would minimize the severity of Mrs. Farris’ offense.”
Photo: Can Do Clemency.