Longer Sentence to Qualify for Rehab Was Improper

By JAMIE ROSS

(CN) – The 10th Circuit recently ruled that a federal judge improperly lengthened a woman’s prison sentence by 40 percent so she would qualify for a prison rehabilitation program.

Attorneys for Ashley Tidzump asked a federal judge in Wyoming to sentence her to 18 months for assault. The court said it preferred not to sentence her to prison time.

The judge then made an about-face, sentencing Tidzump to 31 months because it was likely the “shortest prison sentence” to allow her to enter into a residential drug-abuse treatment program. Tidzump had acknowledged an addition to opiates in court.

Tenth Circuit Judge Robert Bacharach wrote for a three-judge panel that had the trial court not focused on a rehabilitation program, Tidzump’s sentence would likely have been shorter.

When “the district court decided the sentence with a laudable purpose (facilitating rehabilitation) and proceeded without the benefit of adversarial argument,” it set itself up for a clear Tapia violation, Bacharach wrote.

The 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tapia v. United States held that federal judges cannot longer prison sentences for rehabilitation purposes.

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