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United States v. Sutherland

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 22, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TIFFANY SUTHERLAND

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR RECOMMENDATION REGARDING LENGTH OF RRC PLACEMENT

          JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Court grants an inmate's request that it recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that as she nears the end of her period of federal incarceration, she be allowed to spend from nine to twelve months assigned to a residential reentry center with the caveats (1) that the Court is unaware of anything in her dealings with the Court that would significantly militate against such a recommendation, (2) that the Court assumes the accuracy of the Defendant's stated accomplishments while in prison, (3) that the BOP itself has not been represented in this motion and the Court has no information as to its position, (4) that the BOP, not the Court, has the ultimate authority to designate an inmate, and (5) that beyond the individual circumstances presented here, this order reflects this Court's generally positive view of the efficacy of residential reentry centers in bridging the gap from a lengthy period of incarceration to the greater freedom of supervised release.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 16, 2016, the Court sentenced Tiffany Sutherland to a term of incarceration of 54 months for her part in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, heroin, and 28 grams or more of cocaine base, a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). J. (ECF No. 180). On November 30, 2017, the Court reduced her sentence to a term of incarceration of 51 months. Am. J. (ECF No. 198).

         A. Tiffany Sutherland's Motion

         On April 23, 2018, Ms. Sutherland moved this Court to recommend to the United States Bureau of Prisons (BOP) that she receive nine to twelve months of Residential Reentry Center placement. Mot. for Recommendation Regarding Length of RRC Placement (ECF No. 200) (Def.'s Mot.). Ms. Sutherland's motion is largely a “fill-in-the-blanks” motion.[1]

         Ms. Sutherland states that she has a current release date of February 19, 2019 and it is therefore vital that she be recommended for the reentry center as soon as possible. Id. at 2. She says that during her incarceration, she has maintained a clean record and has consistently worked as an orderly. Id. Conceding that the BOP has the ultimate authority to designate her to an RRC, she also observes that the BOP is required to consider any judicial recommendation. Id. She notes that she graduated from the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) on April 6, 2018 at Alderson Federal Prison Camp, but she states that she did not get a reduced sentence from her RDAP participation because of the gun enhancement. Id. at 4. Ms. Sutherland represents that her Unit Team is requesting that her halfway house date be fixed in September 2018. Id. at 3-4.

         B. The Government's Response

         On May 11, 2018, the Government filed a pro forma response, taking no position on the motion. Gov't Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Recommendation Regarding Placement at 1 (ECF No. 201). On May 15, 2018, the Government filed a supplemental response. Gov't Second Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Recommendation Regarding Placement (ECF No. 202) (Gov't's Second Resp.).

         The Government concurs with Ms. Sutherland that the BOP, not this Court, has the authority to determine her place of imprisonment. Gov't's Second Resp. at 2-3. The Government observes that the pre-release designation statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c), provides that the BOP may exercise its discretion in assigning an inmate to prerelease custody and that any recommendation from this Court must be subject to the BOP's statutory discretion. Id. at 3. The Government points to other court decisions which have granted post-judgment motions similar to Ms. Sutherland's. Id. at 3-4 (citing caselaw). In the end, the Government leaves the decision as to whether to make a recommendation to the sound discretion of the Court. Id. at 4.

         II. DISCUSSION

         The United States Supreme Court has written that Congress has given the BOP “plenary control, subject to statutory constraints, over ‘the place of the prisoner's imprisonment.'” Tapia v. United States, 141 S.Ct. 2382, 2390 (2011) (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b)). Federal law permits a court to make a recommendation to the BOP, “[b]ut decisionmaking authority rests with the BOP.” Id. at 2390-91. The applicable statutory provision is 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c)(1):

[The BOP] shall, to the extent practicable, ensure that a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment spends a portion of the final months of that term (not to exceed 12 months), under conditions that will afford that prisoner a reasonable opportunity to adjust to and prepare for the reentry of that prisoner into the community. Such conditions may include a community correctional facility.

Federal law also provides that a sentencing court may make a recommendation that a prisoner serve a term of imprisonment in a residential reentry center. 18 U.S.C. ยง 3621(b). ...


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