The court ruled to grant the individual's request for compassionate release under the First Step Act. The case was unusual because the individual had already been released from prison but was set to be returned. Although the district court had agreed to release him in 2017, the government had appealed and the Second Circuit reversed and remanded in 2019. The court decided to grant Austin compassionate release and permitted him to remain at liberty on the basis that it would be unjust to return him to prison, given that "[s]ince his release in 2017, Austin has lived the life of a productive citizen, securing employment, obtaining an apartment, and involving himself with his family." The court also named COVID-19 as another factor in its decision, stating that "in light of the factors above —the total irrationality of subjecting this defendant to an additional period of incarceration and the likelihood that such incarceration would undermine and perhaps irreversibly set back his rehabilitation — even the reduced risk that this defendant would face from COVID-19 inside a prison facility where, because of crowded and unsanitary conditions, the virus can sometimes flourish, adds to the combined elements warranting release."
United States v. Austin, No. 1:06-cr-991 (JSR), 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109379 (S.D.N.Y. June 22, 2020)
Criminal (Federal Charges)
Type of Court
Federal District Court
Type of Case
Post-Conviction Detention [jail or prison], Pre-Existing Health Conditions
Sentence time reduced to time served; may remain out of prison rather than being forced to return
Current sentence: felon in possession of a firearm; Prior history: three prior state robbery convictions
Pre-Existing Health Conditions
Hypertension (high blood pressure), Obesity
Pre-Existing Health Conditions Notes
Obesity (BMI not specified)
COVID-19 in Jail Prison or Detention Center
Crowdsourced legal documents from around the country related to COVID-19 and incarceration, organized, collected, and summarized for public defenders, litigators, and other advocates. Created and managed by Bronx Defenders, Columbia Law School’s Center for Institutional and Social Change, UCLA Law COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project, and Zealous. Mostly federal court opinions, but now expanding to states and legal filings, declarations, and exhibits.
This resource is designed to help lawyers, advocates, researchers, journalists, and others interested in challenging, remedying, or drawing attention to the grave risk that Covid-19 poses to individuals who are detained.