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Lewis v. Attorney General of United States and Warden

argued: February 28, 1989.


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Civil No. 88-0021.

Author: Cowen


COWEN, Circuit Judge

This appeal presents two novel questions of law in this Circuit involving a prisoner serving a sentence under the Youth Corrections Act. The prisoner was convicted of another crime while serving the youth sentence and, because of the court's finding that he would no longer benefit from treatment as a youth offender, he was given a consecutive sentence as an adult. The first issue is whether the prisoner is entitled to receive statutory good time credits because of the failure, pursuant to this "no further benefit" finding, to segregate him from adult prisoners, as the Youth Corrections Act requires. The second issue is whether the same prisoner is similarly entitled to good time credits because he was not segregated from adult prisoners during certain periods of his incarceration even before he was sentenced as an adult.

The district court held that the prisoner was not entitled to receive any good time credits. We hold that he is entitled to good time credits for the period starting from his sentencing as an adult, but not for time allegedly served under conditions violating the YCA prior to the adult sentencing. We therefore will reverse and remand for disposition in accordance with this Opinion.


On October 26, 1979, Timothy Lewis ("Lewis") was sentenced in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia to a fifteen year term for assault with intent to rob, and to a ten year concurrent term for assault with a dangerous weapon. Both sentences were imposed under the Youth Corrections Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 5005-26 (1982) (repealed 1984) ("YCA").*fn1

While serving this sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution at Petersburg, Virginia, Lewis was convicted of assault by striking, beating or wounding within the special territorial jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 113(d). On October 21, 1982, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia sentenced Lewis to six months in prison for that offense, to run consecutively with the sentences which he was already serving. Moreover, pursuant to Ralston v. Robinson, 454 U.S. 201, 70 L. Ed. 2d 345, 102 S. Ct. 233 (1981), discussed infra section III. A., the sentencing court imposed the six-month sentence on Lewis as an adult, after specifically finding that Lewis would obtain no further benefit from being treated as a youth offender under the YCA. App. at 46.

As a result of the "no further benefit" finding made by the court in the 1982 sentencing, Lewis' participation in the YCA program was terminated and his treatment as an adult prisoner began. Since then he has not been segregated from adult prisoners, as mandated under the YCA.*fn2

On January 8, 1988, Lewis filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to § 28 U.S.C. 2241 in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The essence of Lewis' habeas petition was that his treatment as an adult, pursuant to the court's finding of no further benefit, transformed his YCA sentence into an adult sentence and required that he be granted good time credits like other adult prisoners. App. at 11. The brief in support of the petition also contained an argument that Lewis had been housed with adults, in violation of the YCA, even before the 1982 sentencing. App. at 25.*fn3

On February 11, 1988, Lewis filed a motion for summary judgment on the transformation issue. App. at 49-59. Pursuant to the district court's request, the parties filed briefs on the issues raised in Scott v. United States, 778 F.2d 1444 (10th Cir. 1985) (per curiam), and Johnson v. Rodgers, 756 F.2d 79 (10th Cir. 1985), discussed infra section III. On May 6, the court denied Lewis' application for bail pending a decision on the merits of his petition. On June 6, the district court issued a memorandum opinion and order denying Lewis' petition for habeas corpus and his motion for summary judgment.*fn4 Lewis filed a notice of appeal on June 17, and he filed a pro se appellate brief with this Court on July 27. On November 29, 1988, counsel was appointed to represent Lewis.


The core purpose of the YCA is rehabilitation. See Dorszynski v. United States, 418 U.S. 424, 433, 41 L. Ed. 2d 855, 94 S. Ct. 3042 (1974). To this end, the YCA allows a youthful offender to receive an indeterminate sentence, during which time he is to undergo a comprehensive program of rehabilitation, followed by a period of conditional release. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 5010 and 5017.*fn5 The time of release is based on a determination that the offender has made sufficient progress towards rehabilitation, and thus it is possible for a youthful offender sentenced under the YCA to be confined longer than an adult who has been convicted of the same offense. See Johnson v. Rodgers, 756 F.2d 79, 80 (10th Cir. 1985).*fn6

An important principle of the YCA is that, once a person is committed for treatment under the YCA, the sentence is designed to fit the person, not the crime. Dorszynski, 418 U.S. at 434. The person committed is subject to study and recommendation as to appropriate treatment, see 18 U.S.C. §§ 5014 and 5015, and to a broad range of treatment options, ranging from maximum security confinement to forestry camps, see 18 U.S.C. § 5011. A fundamental aspect of the treatment program is that youth offenders are segregated, along with those requiring similar treatment, from offenders serving traditional criminal sentences, see 18 U.S.C. § 5011, in order to "avoid the influence of association with the more hardened inmates." Dorszynski, 418 U.S. at 434.*fn7



In challenging the denial of his petition for habeas corpus, Lewis seeks review of the district court's legal conclusions, and thus our standard review is plenary.

We first review the transformation issue. The sentencing court in 1982 specifically found that Lewis would no longer benefit from youth status under the YCA, and shortly thereafter Lewis' incarceration with adults began. Lewis argues that he is entitled to good time credits based on a theory that his YCA sentence was transformed into an adult sentence as a result of the "no further benefit" finding in the 1982 sentencing. Lewis does not ...

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