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Federal Sentence Computation Applied to The Interaction of Federal And State Sentences

By Henry J. Sadowski

Editor's Note: Drawing on his 36 years of experience, in this article retired BOP Regional Counsel Henry J. Sadowski describes how the Federal Bureau of Prisons computes federal sentences.

This article explains the basic steps and principles followed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) when computing a federal sentence. The article likewise focuses on the impact, if any, on the federal sentence computation when a defendant is also sentenced by state authorities. This is probably the single most confusing and least understood federal sentencing issue. The policy of the BOP concerning where the federal sentence is served is also addressed. Examples provided in the article seek to clarify the sentencing computation.

I.   Basic Federal Sentence Computation

The BOP has long been responsible for federal sentencing computation decisions. The statute governing sentence computations is 18 U.S.C. § 3585, which provides:

§ 3585. Calculation of a term of imprisonment.

(a) Commencement of sen

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