Saturday, June 25, 2011

Can imprisonment rehabilitate?

 From Our Friends at the Grits For Breakfast Blog

The US Supreme Court yesterday held in Tapia v. United States (pdf) that federal law "does not permit a sentencing court to impose or lengthen a prison term in order to foster a defendant’s rehabilitation" in federal cases. (See SCOTUSWiki's case backup page, Doug Berman's first-take analysis here, and coverage from the Los Angeles Times, the Sacramento Bee, McClatchy Newspapers, and UPI.)

The defendant had been sentenced to the Bureau of Prisons with a recommendation that she participate in the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP), but Ms. Tapia argued that the terms of the sentence (a lesser sentence for completing a rehabilitation program," violated a Congressional command that judges “recogniz[e] that imprisonment is not an appropriate means of promoting correction and rehabilitation.” Justice Kagan's opinion declares that "A court does not err by discussing the opportunities for rehabilitation within prison or the benefits of specific treatment or training programs." And a footnote mentions that “Congress did not intend to prohibit courts from imposing less imprisonment in order to promote a defendant’s rehabilitation.” But in this case, wrote Kagan, "the record indicates that the District Court may have increased the length of Tapia’s sentence to ensure her completion of RDAP, something a court may not do."

Read the entire article here !

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