Uncommon Compassion: Dying Offenders Seldom Released in Federal Prison System

Feb 17, 2015

Linda Share shows a photo of her father (far right) years before his incarceration.
Credit Jeffrey Benzing / PublicSource

Linda Share fought for years to get her father home before he died.

Benjamin Share had been away for eight years. His kidneys were failing. He had congestive heart failure. His foot, an unnatural burgundy color, was swollen, and he had weeping sores that wouldn’t heal.

“The sores got worse and worse,” Linda said, describing her father’s deterioration in a nursing facility chosen by the prison. “I would drive to Manor Care and take home urine-stained and blood-stained clothing, his undergarments, and wash them for my daddy.”

She asked President Barack Obama to change his sentence to home confinement. Asked federal judges to do the same. Asked the warden to realize her dad might die in prison and needed to go home. Asked the Bureau of Prisons to do the same once the warden agreed.

After a March 2014 heart attack, leadership from the Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C., denied her father a compassionate release, explaining that his health had not deteriorated enough to qualify.

Within weeks, Benjamin Share’s condition had worsened to the point the 85-year-old inmate was transferred from the minimum security federal prison camp at FCI Schuylkill in Minersville, Pa., back to an off-site hospital and then to the Manor Care nursing facility.

He was every bit still a prisoner, serving 10 years for his role in a bribery scheme that won his software company $18.1 million in federal defense contracts.

When the Justice Department in June finally agreed he could go home to Harrisburg, prison officials said they expected him to live another six months.

He died in a matter of days.

But he was back in his own bedroom, listening to the opera he loved, waving his hands.

In just three more weeks, he would have been eligible for home confinement under the terms of his sentence.

Share’s death came roughly a year after the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General published a scathing report on the federal Bureau of Prison’s systemic failures to send dying and terminally ill inmates home if they qualified for compassionate release.

Read more of this report at the website of our partner PublicSource.