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9th Circuit Confirms Only BOP Can Designate Prison Assignments

The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has dismissed the appeal of prisoner Oscar Ceballos, AKA Chuco, which complained of the Federal Bureau of Prison's (BOP) failure to designate him to the prison facility recommended by the district court sentencing judge, the U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, and his defense counsel.

Ceballos had pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamines and requested that the district court recommend a designation to a prison located in Southern California operated by the BOP. According to the 9th Circuit, "the district court did not address the request for a designation request (at trial) and Ceballos failed to object."
Shortly thereafter, both the government and defense counsel filed a joint stipulation seeking the revision of the final judgment, which would add the request for designation to a Southern California unit.

The district court denied the request, ruling that a "district court does not have inherent power to resentence defendants at any time. Its authority to do so must flow either from the court of appeals mandate... or from Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35." U.S. v. Handa, 122 F.3d 690, (9th Cir. 1997).

According to the appeals court, "The Bureau of Prisons has the statutory authority to choose the locations where prisoners serve their sentence. See 18 U.S.C. Section 3621(b) "The Bureau of Prisons shall designate the place of the prisoner's imprisonment." See: Rodriguez v. Smith, 541 F. 3d 1180 (9th Cir. 2008). “This section thus gives non-binding weight to recommendations made by the sentencing court..."

In conclusion, the appellate court noted that "Every other circuit that has confronted this issue has reached a similar conclusion—a recommendation to the Bureau of Prisons is not part of a sentence and cannot be appealed. See: U.S. v. Kerr, 472 F.3d 517, (8th Cir. 2006).”

See: United States v. Oscar Ceballos, 671 F.3d 852 (9th Cir., 2011).

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Related legal case

United States v. Oscar Ceballos