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Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315
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Early Release Options and Programs for Convicted Criminal Defendants

A criminal defendant who has been convicted and is sentenced to a significant amount of time in prison has several options regarding his/her future. The inmate may complete his/her sentence, but with prisons generally overpopulated, a non-violent or rehabilitated inmate may have several ways in which he/she may leave the prison walls early. Early release options may take the form of executive clemency, parole, community work release, and conditional medical release (also known as compassionate release).

Executive Clemency

Executive clemency refers to the pardoning power of the governor under the Florida Constitution to grant mercy to an inmate. Commutation of a sentence by executive clemency is rare and has only occurred 148 times, by seven governors.


Parole is commutation by the state by the power of a commission known as the Florida Commission Offender Review. Parole has been significantly limited in its application since 1983, where most crimes have been found inappropriate for parole. Capital murder and sexual battery are two crimes where parole is not available. Less than 5,000 inmates are eligible for parole, thereby asserting that while parole is a possibility, it is only applicable in certain circumstances.

Community Work Release

Community work release allows inmates to work as paid employees, while continuing to serve their sentences. The program’s aim is to educate inmates in marketable and employable skills so that they are best able to re-integrate into society with accumulated savings so that once they are released, finding employment will be easier and the rate of recidivism will be lower.

Conditional Medical Release

Conditional medical release or compassionate release is within the exclusive power of the Florida Commission on Offender Review, and provides a commutation of an inmate’s sentence if Department of Corrections’ doctors determine that the inmate is terminally ill or permanently incapacitated. The purpose behind compassionate release rests largely in the idea that prison, whose purpose to the general public is to deter and rehabilitate, would be lost on a prisoner who is either permanently incapacitated or terminally ill. The state has incentives to grant compassionate release because of persistent overcrowding issues, and the high price that would pass to the state to care for incapacitated or terminally ill inmates who are not benefiting from the prison atmosphere. It has been estimated that annually the state of Florida spends $68,270 on inmates who are over the age of 50 years old, which is, on average, more than four times the average cost of maintaining younger inmates within the prison system.

Who Can Benefit From These Options and Programs?

Overall, these separate programs provide options for those who are incarcerated with long-term sentences. Though generally these programs and options would be less likely to be offered to those inmates on death row or for those who have committed capital crimes, these programs and options can be beneficial to non-violent offenders who take seriously the rehabilitative ability of prison and endeavor to become functioning members of society upon release. The system is prone to aiding younger inmates, in particular juveniles who end up in the system who have committed nonviolent crimes, and who have their whole lives ahead of them.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

If a loved one has been serving his/her sentence for a long period of time, it is important to determine if any of these programs or options could be beneficial to your loved one. An experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik can provide you guidance on the likelihood that these options and programs may pertain to your loved one’s situation. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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