United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
June 13, 2005.
KEVIN RUTLEDGE, Petitioner
JOHN ASHCROFT, Respondent.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MUNLEY, District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Kevin Rutledge ("Rutledge"), a federal inmate presently
confined at the Low Security Correctional Institution at
Allenwood, Pennsylvania, filed his petition for writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on January 28, 2005,
challenging a disciplinary hearing that took place while he was
incarcerated at FCI Fort Dix, New Jersey. Rutledge also filed a
motion for a preliminary injunction. (Doc. 3). For the reasons
set forth below, both the petition and the motion, which are ripe
for disposition, will be denied.
I. Factual Background.
In May 2004, officers at FCI Fort Dix, found a cell phone. On
June 4, 2004, Rutledge informed officers that "[t]he cell phone
that was found inside the camp belonged to [him], a friend
dropped it off on base and [he] picked it up (the cell phone),
[he] used it as [he] walked" around the track. (Doc. 8-2, p. 18).
He identified the subscriber of the cell phone as a friend. He
stated that he had used the phone from January 2004 until May
As a result of the above, an incident report was issued
charging Rutledge with two violations: use of the telephone for
abuses other than criminal activity in violation of Code 297 of
the Bureau of Prisons disciplinary code; and possession of
anything not authorized in violation of Code 305. (Doc. 8-2, p. 8). Rutledge appeared before
the Unit Disciplinary Committee (UDC) on June 8, 2004, at which
time the UDC referred the charge to the disciplinary hearing
officer. A copy of an "Inmate Rights at Discipline Hearing" form
and notice of hearing were provided to Rutledge on June 8, 2004.
(Doc. 8-2, pp. 16, 17).
The disciplinary hearing was held on June 16, 2004. Rutledge
was present and indicated that he understood his rights. Id. at
p. 10. In arriving at a determination of guilt, the disciplinary
hearing officer relied on Rutledge's admission of guilt contained
in the incident report, as well as Rutledge's statement that the
cell phone was delivered to him at the institution during
visiting hours by his friend, Nidia Coradin. The disciplinary
hearing officer also relied on a memorandum which documented
communication by the reporting officer with the cell phone
provider, T-Mobile, which confirmed that Nidia Coradin was the
cell phone subscriber. The account was established on January 13,
2004, and was suspended May 1, 2004, because the cell phone was
reported as being lost or stolen. Also, the disciplinary hearing
officer took into account the fact that Nidia Coradin was on both
Rutledge's phone and visiting lists. In addition, Rutledge
admitted to the disciplinary officer that he had the cell phone
in his possession and that he used it when he was outside. He
also reiterated that it was dropped off by a friend.
After consideration of all the evidence presented at the
hearing, the disciplinary hearing officer concluded that Rutledge
had committed the prohibited acts of possession of anything
unauthorized and use of phone for abuses other than criminal. He
was disallowed a total of 40 days good conduct time, he forfeited
non-vested good conduct time of 73 days, lost both phone and visitation privileges for a period of one year and was
sanctioned 45 days of disciplinary segregation. (Doc. 8-2, p.
A habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 is the
proper mechanism for a federal prisoner to challenge the "fact or
duration" of his confinement. Preiser v. Rodriguez,
411 U.S. 475, 498-499 (1973). A violation of a prisoner's liberty interest
may be addressed by a writ of habeas corpus only to the extent
that the alleged violation impacts a prisoner's length of
confinement. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974).
Rutledge's claim that his due process rights have been violated,
and that the violation has resulted in the imposition of the
sanction of loss of good conduct time, which lengthens his prison
term, is properly brought in a habeas corpus petition.
While extreme limitations on the due process rights that arise
from the Fourteenth Amendment have been imposed by the Supreme
Court in Sandin v. Connor, 515 U.S. 472 (1995), the
applicability of those protections to matters where an inmate is
faced with the loss of good conduct time credit, as is the case
here, was left undisturbed. The disciplinary proceedings
challenged by Rutledge must be evaluated in this context.
The Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP") disciplinary process is fully
outlined in Code of Federal Regulations, Title 28, Sections
541.10 through 541.23. These regulations dictate the manner in
which disciplinary action may be taken should a prisoner violate,
or attempt to violate, institutional rules. The first step
requires filing an incident report and conducting an investigation pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 541.14. Staff is required
to conduct the investigation promptly unless circumstances beyond
the control of the investigator intervene. 28 C.F.R. § 541.14(b).
Following the investigation, the matter is then referred to the
UDC for a hearing pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 541.15. If the UDC
finds that a prisoner has committed a prohibited act, it may
impose minor sanctions. If the alleged violation is serious and
warrants consideration for more than minor sanctions, or involves
a prohibited act listed in the greatest severity category, the
UDC must refer the matter to a disciplinary hearing officer for a
hearing. 28 C.F.R. § 541.15. Based on the seriousness of the
offense, the matter was referred for a disciplinary hearing.
(Doc. 8-2, p. 8).
High severity category offenses carry a possible sanction of
loss of good conduct time credits, inter alia.
28 C.F.R. § 541.13. When a prison disciplinary hearing may result in the loss
of good conduct time credits, due process requires that the
prisoner receive: (1) written notice of the claimed violation at
least twenty four hours in advance of the hearing, (2) an
opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in
his or her defense when doing so would be unduly hazardous to
institutional safety or correctional goals, and (3) a written
statement by the factfinder as to evidence relied on and reasons
for the disciplinary action. See Wolff, 418 U.S. at 564. All
indications from the record are that the BOP afforded Rutledge
these protections, and Rutledge does not argue otherwise.
However, he does contest the sufficiency of the evidence to
support a finding of guilt on the Code 297 violation.
Specifically, he contends that the "code 297 language is
satisfied when an abuse occurred on the Federal Property phone systems that the
Bureau of Prisons installed within the actual institution itself.
Not a cell-phone, a contraband cell phone that have [sic] no
relation, or connection to the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Telephone Systems." (Doc. 1, p. 9).
The disciplinary hearing officer's decision is required to be
supported by "some evidence" in the record. See Superintendent
v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 454 (1985); see also Young v. Kann,
926 F.2d 1396, 1402-03 (3d Cir. 1991) (applying Hill standard to
federal prisoner due process challenges to prison disciplinary
proceedings). Determining whether this standard is met does not
require examination of the entire record, independent assessment
of witness credibility, or weighing of the evidence; the relevant
question is whether there is any evidence in the record that
could support the disciplinary hearing officer's conclusion. See
Hill, 472 U.S. at 454. In considering the evidence, as recited
in the factual background section, supra, the court finds that
there was "some evidence" to support the disciplinary hearing
The Respondent argues that a review of the plain language of
prohibited act Code 297 reveals that Rutledge's contention that
he should not have been charged with a Code 297 violation because
he was using a cell phone rather than the institutional phone
system is meritless. Code 297 prohibits the following:
Use of the telephone for abuses other than criminal
activity (e.g., circumventing telephone monitoring
procedures, possession and/or use of another inmate's
PIN number; third-party calling; third party billing;
using credit card numbers to place telephone calls,
conference calling; talking in code).
28 C.F.R. § 541.13, Table 3. The Court agrees with respondent
that use of a contraband cellular phone clearly falls within the scope of Code 297. Further, in
considering the evidence recited in the factual background
section, the Court finds that there was "some evidence" to
support the disciplinary hearing officer's decision. Thus, the
petition will be denied with respect to Rutledge's claim that
there was insufficient evidence to support the disciplinary
hearing officer's decision to find him guilty of a Code 297
Rutledge also challenges the severity of the sanctions
received. The sanctions that may be imposed upon a finding of
guilt of a "High Category" offense include, inter alia, forfeit
earned statutory good conduct time or non vested good conduct
time up to 50% or up to 60 days, whichever is less, disallow
between 25 and 50% (14-27 days) of good conduct time available
for the year, imposition of up to 60 days disciplinary
segregation, and loss of privileges. 28 C.F.R. § 541.13. Rutledge
is not entitled to relief on this ground as the sanctions imposed
upon him are within the range permitted. Further, the Court is
unconvinced by Rutledge's argument that he should not have lost
visitation privileges because this privilege is unrelated to the
violation. Rutledge fails to recognize that he secured the cell
phone during a visitation session. There is therefore sufficient
evidence to support the sanction of loss of visitation
Based on the above, the petition for habeas corpus, as well as
Rutledge's motion for a preliminary injunction (Doc. 3), will be
An appropriate Order will issue. ORDER
AND NOW, to wit, this 13th day of June 2005, upon
consideration of the petition for writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 1)
and the motion for a preliminary injunction (Doc. 3) IT IS
HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. The petition for writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 1) is DENIED;
2. Petitioner's motion for a preliminary injunction (Doc. 3) is
3. The Clerk of Court is directed to CLOSE this case.
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