In evaluating probation and supervised release conditions, the "reasonable relation" test is necessarily a "very flexible standard," and such flexibility is necessary because of the court's uncertainty about how rehabilitation is accomplished. While the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit's knowledge of rehabilitation is limited, it has nonetheless explicitly held that a public apology may serve a rehabilitative purpose.
Defendant pilfered letters from several mailboxes. He entered a guilty plea to mail theft and was sentenced to two months' incarceration and three years' supervised release. One of the supervised release conditions required defendant to stand outside a post office wearing a signboard that stated that he stole mail. He appealed.
Did the condition of wearing a sign in public stating his crime violate the Sentencing Reform Act?
The court held that it did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, as forbidden by U.S. Const. amend. VIII, because it was in lieu of incarceration and did not exceed the bounds of "civilized standards" or other evolving standards of decency that marked the progress of a maturing society. The eight-hour condition did not violate the Sentencing Reform Act because the record unambiguously established that the district court imposed the condition for the stated and legitimate statutory purpose of rehabilitation and, to a lesser extent, for general deterrence and for the protection of the public. The condition was not a stand-alone condition intended solely to humiliate but was a comprehensive set of provisions that exposed him to social disapprobation and provided an opportunity for him to repair his relationship with society.