Disabled Elder Ezra Bozeman Petitions Court for Compassionate Release Following Public Campaign for His Freedom

Julie Rodgers, Amistad Law Project, (214) 542-4117, julie@amistadlaw.org
Connease Warren, Abolitionist Law Center, (713) 304-8990, connease@alcenter.org

Governor Shapiro becomes first sitting Pennsylvania Governor to support compassionate release of an incarcerated person

May 3, 2024, Philadelphia, PA – Ezra Bozeman, 68, a quadriplegic confined to a Pennsylvania prison has petitioned the court requesting to be medically transferred from prison to a facility in the community.

Since the medical transfer law has been in effect, for 15 years, only around 50 people have been granted “compassionate release” through the courts. Ezra Bozeman’s petition is the first in Pennsylvania history to receive the full support of the sitting Governor after Governor Shapiro’s office endorsed this petition.

Mr. Bozeman was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole, also known as death by incarceration in 1975. He has served 49 years in prison for this offense. Well-respected by incarcerated people and prison staff alike, he has served as a leader and mentor to many people in state prison, having served as a Certified Peer Specialist and mentor to countless others.

For four years, Mr. Bozeman was suffering from a spinal cord injury that was misdiagnosed. When his spinal issue was finally diagnosed with an MRI last fall, he was scheduled for surgery to treat his injuries. After his first successful surgery, he developed a life-threatening blood clot in his lungs, followed by a large blood clot in the region of his spinal surgery. He received a second surgery to treat this condition and emerged completely paralyzed from his neck down. Mr. Bozeman is now a quadriplegic who requires a high level of care that the Department of Corrections is not suited to provide.

Since Mr. Bozeman became a quadriplegic on February 14, 2024, he has endured severe pain and suffering. He lost 50 pounds and suffers from a stage 4 pressure wound, which means his wound is so severe that bone and musculoskeletal tissue is completely exposed. The wound is the result of needing frequent turning, at least every two hours to avoid the development of pressure sores. He has already had to be rushed to the hospital to treat this serious wound and infection, which is life threatening and can turn septic at any point. Staff in Pennsylvania prisons simply cannot adequately care for Mr. Bozeman.

“Black disabled lives matter,” said Sean Damon, Legislative Director of Amistad Law Project. “Ezra Bozeman has been incarcerated for nearly 50 years where he has served as a mentor to many people inside and outside of prison. He is now a quadriplegic and his health is rapidly deteriorating. We thank Governor Shapiro for supporting his transfer to a long term care facility. We hope the court moves swiftly and releases him to a setting where he can be treated with dignity and receive appropriate and necessary medical care.”

Established in 2009, Pennsylvania’s compassionate release law permits the court to grant the transfer of an incarcerated person who is seriously ill and expected to die within one year to a hospital or long-term care nursing facility. Because the criteria for compassionate release is so narrow, petitioners often die before their petition comes before a judge. In other cases, they are extremely sick but a treating physician might be unwilling to agree on an exact life expectancy.

“Prison is not an appropriate place for a quadriplegic,” said Rupalee Rashatwar, an attorney for Mr. Bozeman at the Abolitionist Law Center. “Transferring Ezra to receive medical care in the community is a moral necessity, and his situation underscores the urgent need for a legislative remedy that would allow elders to be released into the community before they are subjected to such unnecessary suffering.”

This petition follows a grassroots campaign to bring Mr. Bozeman home, led by his fiancee, Christine Roess. A member of the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration, Christine was supported by the Abolitionist Law Center and Amistad Law Project, who circulated a petition calling on Governor Shapiro to grant Mr. Bozeman reprieve that garnered over 800 signatures. Christine’s fight to bring Mr. Bozeman home was featured in CNN last week.

A judge in Allegheny County will soon schedule a hearing in Mr. Bozeman’s case.