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United States v. Phillips

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

October 7, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
STANLEY P. PHILLIPS, Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR JUDICIAL RECOMMENDATION CONCERNING RESIDENTIAL RE-ENTRY CENTER PLACEMENT

          BETH BLOOM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Defendant Stanley P. Phillips' ("Defendant") Motion Requesting a Judicial Recommendation Concerning Length of Residential Re-entry Center Placement Pursuant to the Second Chance Act of 2007. ECF No. [170] ("Motion"). The United States of America ("Government") filed its Response in opposition to Defendant's Motion, ECF No. [172] ("Response"), to which Defendant replied, ECF No. [173] ("Reply"). The Court has reviewed the Motion, all opposing and supporting submissions, the record in the case, and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons discussed below, the Defendant's Motion is granted and the Court recommends that the Bureau of Prisons place Defendant in an appropriate Residential Re-entry Center ("RRC") upon eligibility.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant was tried and found guilty of eight counts of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343. The Defendant was sentenced by this Court on February 20, 2015, to a term of 108 months imprisonment, followed by a term of three years of supervised release. See ECF No. [115]. Defendant is currently serving his sentence at a minimum-security prison in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and is scheduled for release on October 5, 2022. Based on his behavior while in custody and his extensive rehabilitative efforts to prepare for his transition back into civilian life, Defendant now submits the instant Motion urging the Court to recommend that the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") afford him maximum RRC or Halfway House (collectively, "RRC") placement for the twelve months prior to the end of his sentence. ECF No. [170] at 1-6.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The BOP is uniquely charged with designating "the place of a prisoner's imprisonment." 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b). Under the Second Chance Act, codified in 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c):

The Director of 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.

Id.; 28 C.F.R. §570.20(a) ("Community confinement is defined as residence in a community treatment center, halfway house, restitution center, mental health facility, alcohol or drug rehabilitation center, or other community correctional facility (including residential re-entry centers); and participation in gainful employment, employment search efforts, community service, vocational training, treatment, educational programs, or similar facility-approved programs during non-residential hours."). As such, § 3624(c) directs that the BOP place a prisoner preparing to reenter civilian life in a RRC, based on an individualized determination, in order "to provide the greatest likelihood of successful reintegration into the community." Id. § 3624(c)(6); see also United States v. Kuba, No. 06-20114-CR, 2018 WL 7357403, at *1 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 13, 2018).

Pursuant to the Act, BOP staff is directed to review inmates for RRC placement 17 to 19 months before their projected release date and to consider inmates on an individual basis using the following five factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b): (1) the resources of the facility contemplated; (2) the nature and circumstances of the offense; (3) the history and characteristics of the prisoner; (4) any statement by the court that imposed the sentence (concerning the purposes for which the sentence to imprisonment was determined to be warranted, or recommending a type of penal or correctional facility as appropriate); and (5) any pertinent policy statement issued by the Sentencing Commission.

United States v. Hill, No. 06-0286-CG-C, 2019 WL 3337904, at *1 (S.D. Ala. July 25, 2019) (citing 18U.S.C. § 362l(b)(1)-(5)).

         "It is within the discretion of the BOP whether to place a prisoner in an RRC, and if so, for how long." Bromfield v. Dobbs, No. 18-CV-22618, 2019 WL 404048, at *5 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 16, 2019), report and recommendation adopted, No. 18-22618-CIV, 2019 WL 399899 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 31, 2019) (citing Woodall v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 432 F.3d 235, 251 (4th Cir. 2005)); see also Id. (noting that § 3624(c) "does not guarantee a one-year RRC placement" (citing Demis v. Sniezek, 558 F.3d 508, 514 (6th Cir. 2009); Bun v. Wiley, 351 Fed.Appx. 267, 268 (10th Cir. 2009))).While the Court may make a recommendation as to the appropriate correctional facility, "a district court's recommendation to the [BOP] is just that - a recommendation." United States v. Cebellos, 671 F.3d 852, 855 (9th Cir. 2011). A request by a sentencing court "shall have no binding effect on the authority of the Bureau ... to determine or change the place of imprisonment of that person." 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Government opposes the Motion, arguing that Defendant's request is procedurally defective because he has not exhausted his administrative remedies prior to filing this Motion, and that the Defendant's request for RRC placement is premature. ECF No. [172]. The Court disagrees with the Government on both arguments.

         Pursuant to § 3621 (b)(4)(B), the BOP is required to consider the Court's non-binding recommendation in determining an inmate's placement at any available penal or correctional facility. See 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b)(4)(B) ("The Bureau may designate any available penal or correctional facility . .. that the Bureau determines to be appropriate and suitable, considering . .. any statement by the court that imposed the sentence . . . recommending a type of penal or correctional facility as appropriate."). Further, because this Court sentenced Defendant, it may issue a recommendation as to the appropriate correctional facility for Defendant upon request. Id.; see also Hill, 2019 WL 3337904, at *1. The explicit language of this provision indicates that any judicial recommendation must be provided before the BOP makes its placement decision, as this recommendation should be considered as part of the individualized determination of an inmate's ultimate placement. Id. Rather than a motion for relief after an erroneous administrative decision, asasserted by the Government, Defendant's Motion here is simply a request for the Court to submit a recommendation on his behalf that the BOP will consider in assessing his placement in an RRC. Courts have, on occasion, made such recommendations after sentencing. See United States v. Mighty, No. 18-CR-60145, 2019 WL 2373344, at *1 (S.D. Fla. June 5, 2019); United States v. Nelson, No. ...


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