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Compassionate Release

Texas needs more Compassionate Release! Compassionate release is a process by which the incarcerated may be eligible for immediate early release on grounds of "particularly extraordinary or compelling circumstances which could not reasonably have been foreseen by the court at the time of sentencing". In Texas, there are two programs to obtain this type of parole. Medically Recommended Intensive Supervision (MRIS) and Emergency Medical Reprieve (EMR). TDCJ has a rapidly aging population. Due to factors like extreme heat, poor nutrition, and poor medical care, there appears to be a substantial amount of incarcerated individuals with declining health. Despite the fact that this type of parole is more humane, cost-effective, and has an extremely low recidivism rate, the program approval rate is very low with many passing away prior to receiving program approval.  TPCA believes that the expansion of these programs is well overdue.

MRIS Program

Medically Recommended Intensive Supervision (MRIS)  is a program that was first created in 1987 to provide the opportunity for early parole for incarcerated Texans based on being significantly ill, elderly, and/or having physical or mental disabilities.  The program is managed by Texas Correctional Office on Offenders with Medical or Mental Impairments (TCOOMMI) where eligible incarcerated persons are presented to the BPP voting panel for MRIS consideration.  

  • Application or Referral 

    • Internal referrals - medical staff on a Correctional Institutions Division (CID) unit. 

    • External referrals - family, incarcerated individuals, elected officials, social service agencies

  • Eligibility  

    • Terminal Illness (expected death within 6 months)

    • Elderly (+ 65 yrs)

    • Physical Disability (substantial functional limitations in three or more  specific areas)

    • Developmentally Disabled 

    • Mental Illness 

    • Need for Long-Term Care 

    • Organic Brain Syndrome

    • Persistent Vegetative State

    • Special needs patients

​Unfortunately, there are many "gatekeepers"  based on the type of conviction that severely limits eligibility for this program.  

  • DisQualifiers 

    • Serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole or on Death Row

    • Active Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers, Not U.S. Citizens, reportable convictions or adjudications 

    • Sex offense or reportable conviction or adjudication for a sex offense, unless in a “vegetative state” or have Organic Brain Syndrome 


Compassionate Release graph 2017-2022 with table.png

Statistics ​

  • In 2019 the Board approved 76 incarcerated individuals for MRIS, 59 were terminally ill and 17 were in need of long-term care. 

  • In 2020 the Board approved 61 incarcerated individuals for MRIS, 40 were terminally ill and 21 were in need of long-term care. 

Emergency Medical Reprieve (EMR)

Emergency Medical Reprieve (EMR) is a type of clemency that must be reviewed and recommended by The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and granted by the Governor.

  • Eligibility  

    • Terminal Illness (expected death within 6 months)

    • Elderly (+ 65 yrs)

    • Completely incapacitated 

    • Denied Medically Recommended Intensive Supervision (MRIS)

    • Need for Long-Term Care 

    • Organic Brain Syndrome

    • Persistent Vegetative State

    • Special needs patients

  • In 2019 the Board received 132 requests for EMR, the Board’s Clemency Section sent 3 to the full Board, None were recommended to the Governor. 

  • In 2020 68 requests for EMR had been sent to the Board, 2 were recommended by the Board to the Governor and he denied both.


What can you do?

Take action now!

Compassionate Release (MRIS/EMR) Progress Tracker

TPCA Recommendations

  • Pass or amend legislation  guaranteeing compassionate release on the basis of serious medical conditions and terminal illness within 12 months of death.

  • Pass or amend legislation  guaranteeing compassionate release with no categorically exclusions of crime,  sentence, or amount of time left to serve.

  • Amend policy by removing "threat to public safety" as a means of evaluating eligibility.

  • Include rationale for denials in notifications to all stakeholders.

  • Allow individuals to reapply within 30 days of program denial.

  • Assigning advocates to the terminally ill person to assist in navigating the process.

  • Removal of the Board of Pardons and Parole from the decision process and replace with an independent board with medical and mental health experts to oversee the criteria and consideration for MRIS release.

  • Provide information about compassionate release options to each entering prisoner; ensure prison  handbooks include a section that clearly explains eligibility and application.

  •  Ensure that prison law libraries  and tablets have easy-to-find information and application forms.

  • Train corrections staff to understand eligibility criteria for compassionate  release.

  • Teach staff how to identify eligible  incarcerated persons and make it their duty to do so.

  • Keep incarcerated persons, family members,  and advocates informed at each stage  of the assessment and decision-making  process.

  •  Ensure the right to counsel  for all compassionate release  proceedings, including appeals  and revocations.

  •  Including reasons for denials and revocations in annual reporting.

  •  Establish measures of success  and report on how well they meet  these measures.

Acknowledgement: Several of the recommendations above where taken directly from the report conducted by our allies FAMM.  Please see the report below for further examination of the Compassionate Release Movement throughout the U.S.

For Our Lawmakers

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Medical Articles
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
Nelson Mandela
Terminally ill Texas citizens are not a threat to society.
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