April 18, 2019

Tenth Circuit: District Court Cannot Rely on Rehabilitative Goals in Imposing Prison Sentence

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Cordery on Tuesday, August 30, 2011.

The Tenth Circuit remanded to the district court for resentencing. Petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of armed bank robbery. The United States Sentencing Guidelines recommended a sentencing range of 51-63 months’ imprisonment and, after considering arguments from both parties, the district court imposed a sentence of 56 months. The court explained this decision was based on several of the sentencing factors, including the goal of deterrence and the serious nature of the crime. The court also commented that part of the reason for imposing that sentence was to take into account the amount of time that is required for Petitioner to qualify for a prison drug treatment program. Petitioner challenges his sentence on appeal, arguing that the district court’s consideration of rehabilitative goals in extending his term of imprisonment violated 18 U.S.C. § 3582(a), which instructs the court to “recogniz[e] that imprisonment is not an appropriate means of promoting correction and rehabilitation.”

After oral argument in the case, the Tenth Circuit issued an opinion in a different case concluding that a district court cannot rely on rehabilitative goals in imposing a term of incarceration. United States v. Story, 635 F.3d 1241 (10th Cir. 2011). The Supreme Court also reached the same conclusion recently in Tapia v. United States, 131 S. Ct. 2382 (2011). As such, the Court remanded to the district court for resentencing without reliance on rehabilitative goals.

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