New York Federal Criminal Practice Blog
March 23, 2010

Two District Judges Order Improvements in Defendants' Conditions of Incarceration

The BOP is granted enormous discretion in conducting its affairs, from inmate classification and designation, to calculation of good time and eligibility for early release, to managing an inmate's program needs and medical care - to name just some of the key issues affecting an inmate's quality of prison life.  That's not to say that a court order carries no weight.  In fact, the BOP will often endeavor to comply with a court's wishes, particularly in connection with an initial designation.  In two recent decisions, district judges have issued orders seeking some amelioration of a defendant's conditions of incarceration.

In United States v. Seminerio, 2010 WL 749840 (S.D.N.Y. February 22, 2010), the defendant had been designated to the low security facility at Butner to serve his sentence in connection with his conviction for honest services fraud, rather than a minimum security camp.  SDNY Judge Buchwald ordered the BOP to "correct its records to reflect that the defendant did not commit a crime of violence" and further apprised the BOP "that the designation of the defendant [to Butner] is not consistent with the Court's intentions."  The BOP's website indicates, however, that 74 year-old Mr. Seminerio is currently in Butner.

In United States v.  Hatfield, 2010 WL 550392 (E.D.N.Y. February 16, 2010), after an evidentiary hearing conducted before a magistrate, EDNY Judge Seybert ordered the Queens Private Detention Center to provide anti-anxiety medication to a trial defendant, "as directed by prescriptions written by" the defendant's private psychiatrist, and at the defendant's expense.  The magistrate's recommendation of court intervention into the defendant's medical care was based on concerns that he might not be able to assist in his own defense if the medication issue is not resolved.  

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