U.S. v. Rucker, No. 16-6415 (KETHLEDGE, Cook, Donald).
The defendant violated the conditions of his supervised release, and the district court sentenced him to 24 months’ imprisonment, in part because the sentence would allow him to qualify for the Bureau of Prisons’ residential drug-abuse program. The defendant appealed the sentence, arguing that it was substantively unreasonable because it was based on an impermissible factor—rehabilitation.
The Sixth Circuit agreed, vacated the sentence, and remanded. The Court noted that sentencing courts cannot impose or lengthen a prison term to promote an offender’s rehabilitation. A district court may discuss the opportunities for rehabilitation, but the court’s discussion of those things cannot be its explanation for the sentence it imposes. The Court here found that, although the district court said that it found 24 months to be appropriate irrespective of the BOP regulation relating to the drug treatment program, the court did not provide an independent rationale for that conclusion. Moreover, the defendant’s eligibility for the program appeared to have been an important factor in the court’s decision, based on the sentencing transcript. Therefore, the Sixth Circuit vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing.
Judge Donald dissented, finding that the court did set forth a rationale independent of rehabilitative concerns.