Google changed the name to "reconsideration request" specifically because the form can be used for penalty situations or even suspected problems on Google's end. The site does not need to be banned to submit one any longer.
For hope - see this thread from July [webmasterworld.com]. As I wrote there, I have been involved with a few sites this year who went into, and then out of, a -50 penalty. Some rankings were restored with days of submitting a request, and one site took three months.
There is this possibility to consider. Some penalties may be tripped because the site's activities are beyond a calculated threshold for usual behavior in their niche. The release from the penalty sometimes seems to happen when that threshold is re-calculated, rather than after a set time period in the penalty box. In other words, the threshold can change rather than the website.