McNair qualified for federal “compassionate release” program

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — From diabetes to heart problems, Chris McNair’s health problems have been well-documented.

One month before going to prison, McNair suffered a minor stroke, according to his attorney Doug Jones. A judge decided that wasn’t enough to keep him out of prison in 2011; since then, the program for releasing sick and elderly inmates has expanded.

“The Inspector General had been a little bit critical of the Department of Justice for not having consistent and really good compassionate guidelines for elderly inmates,” Attorney Doug Jones said.

The report found the compassionate release program wasn’t being used enough, and some inmates were dying before their requests were reviewed.

At 87 years old, McNair was one of the oldest inmates out of about 200,000 in federal prisons.

Former U.S. Magistrate Judge John Carroll said there’s another reason to release McNair besides compassion.

“There’s also another side, which is, it costs three times as much to house a person like Chris McNair than it does a person with not a lot of health issues,” Carroll said. “So it saves the federal government money.”

McNair’s release coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that took his daughter’s life.

“I think it is just remarkable that he is able to come back and be a part of his family in such a historic occasion,” Jones said.

McNair does plan on attending some of the civil rights commemoration events in Birmingham. Jones said McNair still owes about $400,000 dollars in restitution fees.

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