454 U.S. 201 (1981), 80, Ralston v. Robinson

Docket Nº:No. 80 2049
Citation:454 U.S. 201, 102 S.Ct. 233, 70 L.Ed.2d 345
Party Name:Ralston v. Robinson
Case Date:December 02, 1981
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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454 U.S. 201 (1981)

102 S.Ct. 233, 70 L.Ed.2d 345

Ralston

v.

Robinson

No. 80 2049

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 2, 1981

Argued October 5, 1981

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondent, when 17 years old, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment under the Federal Youth Corrections Act (YCA), 18 U.S.C. § 5010(c). Subsequently, while incarcerated, he was found guilty of assaulting a federal officer, and the District Court imposed an adult sentence to be served consecutively to the YCA sentence, finding that respondent would not benefit from any further treatment under the YCA. Later, while still incarcerated, respondent pleaded guilty to another charge of assaulting a federal officer, and the District Court sentenced him to a further adult sentence to be served consecutively to the sentence he was then serving. The Bureau of Prisons then classified respondent as an adult offender, and accordingly, since that time, he has not been segregated from adult prisoners and has not been offered the YCA rehabilitative treatment that the initial trial court recommended. After exhausting his administrative remedies, respondent filed a petition for habeas corpus. The District Court granted the writ, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the YCA forbids the reevaluation of a YCA sentence by a second judge, even if the second judge makes a finding that further YCA treatment would not benefit the offender.

Held: The YCA does not require YCA treatment for the remainder of a youth sentence where the judge imposing the subsequent adult sentence determines, as here, that such treatment will not benefit the offender further. Pp. 206-220.

(a) The YCA strongly endorses a judge's discretionary power to choose among available sentencing options, and prescribes certain basic conditions of treatment for YCA offenders. By determining that the youth offender should be sentenced under the YCA, the trial court, in effect, decides that the Bureau of Prisons must comply with both the segregation and treatment requirements of the statute. Correctional authorities may not exercise any of the sentencing powers established in the YCA. Pp. 206-210.

(b) The language of § 6010(c) authorizing a court to "sentence the youth offender to the custody of the Attorney General for treatment and supervision" pursuant to the YCA, and of § 6011 providing that "[c]ommitted

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youth offenders . . . shall undergo treatment in institutions . . . that will provide the essential varieties of treatment," and that "such youth offenders shall be segregated from other offenders," does not prohibit any modification of the basic terms of a YCA sentence before its expiration. That is, such language does not require the judge to make an irrevocable determination of segregation or treatment needs, nor preclude a subsequent judge from redetermining those needs in light of intervening events. Pp. 210-211.

(c) On the other hand, the YCA does not give the Bureau of Prisons independent authority to deny a youth offender the treatment and segregation from adults that a sentencing court mandates. Pp. 211-213.

(d) The purposes of the YCA, as revealed in its structure and legislative history, compel the conclusion that a court faced with a choice of sentences for a youth offender still serving a YCA term is not deprived of the option of finding no further benefit in YCA treatment for the remainder of the term. Such history and structure also demonstrate Congress' intent that a court -- but not prison officials -- may require a youth offender to serve the remainder of a YCA sentence as an adult after the offender has received a consecutive adult term. When Congress withdrew from prison officials some of their traditional authority to adjust conditions of confinement, it could not have intended that no one exercise that authority, the only reasonable conclusion being that Congress reposed that authority in the court. Pp. 213-217.

(e) The standards that a district judge should apply in determining whether an offender will obtain any further benefit from YCA treatment are no different from the standards applied in imposing the sentence originally. In light of all relevant factors, the judge can exercise his sound discretion in determining whether the offender should receive youth or adult treatment for the remainder of his term, and should make a judgment informed by both the YCA's rehabilitative purposes and the offender's realistic circumstances. Here, the second sentencing judge made a sufficient finding that respondent would not benefit from YCA treatment during the remainder of his youth term. Pp. 218-219.

642 F.2d 1077, reversed and remanded.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 221. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, post, p. 223.

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MARSHALL, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari in this case, 452 U.S. 960 (1981), to decide whether a youth offender who is sentenced to a consecutive adult term of imprisonment while serving a sentence imposed under the Federal Youth Corrections Act (YCA), 18 U.S.C. § 5005 et seq., must receive YCA treatment for the remainder of his youth sentence. The Courts of Appeals are in conflict on this issue.1 We conclude that the YCA does not require such treatment if the judge imposing the subsequent adult sentence determines that the youth will not benefit from [102 S.Ct. 237] further YCA treatment during the remainder of his youth sentence. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

I

In 1974, respondent, who was 17 years old, pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree murder, and was sentenced to a 10-year term of imprisonment under the YCA, § 5010(C). The sentencing judge recommended that he be placed at the

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Kennedy Youth Center in Morgantown, W.Va.; that he not be released until he had attained at least an eighth-grade level of education and had successfully completed a trade of his own choosing; and that he participate in intensive, individual therapy on a weekly basis and undergo a complete psychological reevaluation before being returned to the community. The sentence, like all YCA sentences, contemplated that the respondent be segregated from adult offenders. See 18 U.S.C. § 5011.

Respondent's subsequent conduct has not been exemplary. In 1975, while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) at Ashland, Ky., respondent was found guilty of assaulting a federal officer by use of a dangerous weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 111 and 1114. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky imposed an additional 10-year adult sentence, and stated in its commitment order: "The Court finds that the defendant will not benefit any further under the provisions of the [YCA], and declines to sentence under said act." After receiving a presentence report, the judge reduced the sentence to 66 months, to be served consecutively to the YCA sentence. The judge also recommended that respondent be transferred from the Kentucky institution "to a facility providing greater security."

Respondent was placed in the Federal Correctional Institution at Oxford, Wis. Subsequent disciplinary problems resulted in his transfer to the FCI at Lompoc, Cal. In 1977, while confined in that institution, respondent pleaded guilty to another charge of assaulting a federal officer. The United States District Court for the Central District of California sentenced him under 18 U.S.C. § 5010(d) to an adult sentence of one year and one day and ordered that the sentence run consecutive to and not concurrent with the sentence that respondent was then serving.

After the second adult sentence, the Bureau of Prisons classified respondent as an adult offender. Accordingly, at

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least since that time,2 respondent has not been segregated from the adult prisoners, and has not been offered the YCA rehabilitative treatment that the initial trial court recommended. The Bureau of Prisons acted pursuant to a written policy when it classified respondent as an adult. In implementing the YCA's treatment and segregation requirements, the Bureau narrowly defines a "YCA Inmate" as "any inmate sentenced under 18 U.S.C. Section 5010(b), (c), or (e) who is not also sentenced to a concurrent or consecutive adult term, whether state or federal." Bureau of Prisons Policy Statement No. 5215.2, p. 1 (Dec. 12, 1978) (emphasis added).

Respondent exhausted his administrative remedies and filed a petition for habeas corpus on May 25, 1978. The Magistrate recommended transfer to an institution in which respondent would be segregated from adults and would receive YCA treatment. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois issued an order granting the writ, which was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. 642 F.2d 1077 (1981). The Court of Appeals held that the YCA forbids the reevaluation of a [102 S.Ct. 238] YCA sentence by a second judge, even if the second judge makes an explicit finding that further YCA treatment would not benefit the offender. The Court of Appeals also rejected petitioner's broader argument that the YCA vests discretion in the Bureau of Prisons to modify the treatment terms of a YCA sentence when the offender has received a consecutive or concurrent adult sentence for a felony.

On January 9, 1982, respondent will be conditionally released from his YCA sentence and will begin his first adult sentence.

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II

In Dorszynski v. United States, 418 U.S. 424 (1974), this Court exhaustively analyzed the history,...

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