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The Boston Globe



DiMasi deserves consideration for ‘compassionate release’

Federal authorities have the power to grant early prison release for “extraordinary and compelling reasons” — what is commonly known as “compassionate release.” Such leniency has mostly been granted to prisoners who are clearly dying — a standard that might exclude the ailing former House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi. By various accounts, the 67-year-old DiMasi is weak and fed by a stomach tube as he is treated for a rare form of throat and tongue cancer at a North Carolina prison hospital, but his immediate prognosis is unclear.

For the sake of DiMasi and others who may be similarly afflicted, federal prison authorities should interpret the release statute in a broader way, looking at the totality of the circumstances: the seriousness of the prisoner’s condition; the dangers to the public presented by his or her release; the nature of his or her offense; and the potential benefit in receiving medical care in a private setting where his or her condition can be monitored by relatives and friends.

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