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  • Cassie Jo Monaco

The Fight Of My Life

I am in the midst of the fight of my life that only a select group of people can understand and relate. I call this fight, "The Battle of Compassionate Release."


Four years ago, I could not have told you what was compassionate release. It was a few months after my husband reported to federal prison on July 5, 2016, that I learned of compassionate release by watching a video that FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) had posted. The video is called 5 to life: Compassionate Release. After watching the video, I had not only tears streaming down my face, but I had a deep ache in my heart, almost like I had lost a loved one. The video portrays a man incarcerated for wire fraud. While incarcerated, he is diagnosed with cancer. We watch the family fight and struggle with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to bring this husband and father home to die with dignity and amongst family. Until the First Step Act Passed on December 21, 2018, the BOP (Bureau of Prisons) was the gatekeeper of compassionate release. Filing for compassionate release was a long and arduous process that, if denied by the BOP, there was no recourse. Between 2013 and 2017, the BOP approved only 6% of the 5400 applications received for compassionate release. Most died alone in prison, just as the gentleman in the video.


I sat with my husband in the intake lobby of FCI Englewood, located in Denver on July 5, 2016. We held each other's sweaty hands barely able to focus because our minds, or at least my mind, wondered what awaited my husband beyond the confined walls of prison. "Christopher Camut," the officer said with authority. We stood, embraced, and kissed then we both walked in opposite directions Chris to become the property of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and me to pick up the pieces of my shattered heart.


What now four years later should be the final four-month countdown of my husband coming home has become the fight of our lives. We are in month two of "The Battle of Compassionate Release." It appears my husband's Thyroid cancer has returned and metastasized. Chris's health problems began over a year ago when his white blood cell count began to rise. When his white-blood-cell count reached 193k in November of 2019 ( normal is 4-10k), he was sent to the hospital in renal failure close to death. Chris received two rounds of dialysis and now has chronic kidney failure. Now his Thyroglobulin antibodies level is 650% above normal, which signifies cancer has returned along with a host of many other symptoms. This level has been rising since shortly after incarceration. Medical at the prison never even thought to probe into as why. So now we fight to bring him home to try and save his life.


It is the fellow soldiers that we call criminal justice and prison reform, advocates. These warriors are the only ones who truly understand the battle taking place because they also live it daily. We are deep in the trenches together. When one of us feels like we cannot go on any further, we pick each other up and carry them on our back as long as we need to so we can help each other win each battle in hopes of winning the war.


Battle and war seem like such an awful way to describe how we live, but what I say is true. I uncharacteristically found myself lashing out the past couple of weeks from exhaustion and frustration. While trying to explain to non-soldiers, "The battle of Compassionate Release." I am met with confused looks and questioned as though I am lying. I think if I were not a soldier of reform, I also would have that same confused look and challenging whether its truth or a jaded wife exaggerating because it all sounds so heinous, reprehensible, and ridiculous.


My husband continues to call me with his cheery voice, laugh at my stupid antics, tells me how much he loves me and continues to be the forever romantic. My husband has faced the consequences of incarceration with courage and dignity. I want the opportunity to live life with my husband. We were only married three-months before he reported to prison. I want to live out all of the romantic date night letters he has sent to me. But mostly, I want to spend the next forty years holding my husband's hand.



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