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Bunn v. Angelini

March 5, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Vanaskie



On May 16, 2007, Christopher Bunn, represented by counsel, commenced this habeas corpus proceeding pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Petitioner, whose 96-month sentence will not expire before March of 2009, seeks a reduction in his custody level classification and a transfer for the remainder of his prison term either to home confinement or to a Residential Re-entry Center ("RRC").*fn1 The gist of Petitioner's position is that he meets the requirements for a custody level classification that would authorize confinement either at home or in an appropriate RRC, but the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") employs a categorical rule that blocks home or RRC placement for more than the final six months of an inmate's prison term. Petitioner argues that the BOP rule is contrary to the holding in Woodall v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 432 F.3d 235 (3d Cir. 2005), in which a divided panel of our Court of Appeals held that categorical temporal limitations on RRC placement conflicted with 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b).*fn2

On June 7, 2007, Respondent replied to the habeas corpus petition. In the reply Respondent asserted that, even if Petitioner's custody level classification was reduced to "community," he would not receive RRC placement or home confinement because he had more than two years remaining to be served on his 96-month prison term. In support of this position, the Government cited Bureau of Prisons Program Statement 7310.04, which, in pertinent part, states:

An inmate may be referred [to an RRC] up to 180 days, with placement beyond 180 days highly unusual, and only possible with extraordinary justification. In such circumstances, the Warden shall contact the Regional Director for approval and the Chief [United States Probation Officer] in the inmate's sentencing district to determine whether the sentencing judge objects to such placement. [Emphasis added.]*fn3 On June 28, 2007, Petitioner filed a reply brief in support of his request for habeas corpus relief. In this submission, Petitioner argued that "the use of rules-based temporal restrictions [on RRC placement] is a Woodall violation and warrants the requested relief of an order transferring Petitioner to halfway house or to home confinement." (Dkt. Entry 20 at 3.)

Extended discussion of Petitioner's position is unnecessary in light of the unbroken line of case law that has rejected claims similar to those advanced here. For example, in Brown v. Hogsten, 214 Fed.Appx. 124 (3d Cir. 2007), our Court of Appeals considered the claim of an inmate who argued that he should be released to a halfway house pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b) and Woodall, even though he had years remaining on his sentence. The unanimous panel, albeit in a non-precedential ruling, affirmed the Hon. Malcolm Muir's decision denying habeas corpus relief, Civ. No. 06-0262, 2006 WL 2038377 (M.D. PA. July 19, 2006), explaining:

Contrary to Brown's assertions, Woodall does not require his immediate transfer to a CCC to serve the remainder of his sentence. Instead, Woodall prescribes the steps the BOP should take when considering 'in good faith' a prisoner's placement in a CCC. The District Court correctly held that Brown is not entitled to immediate placement in any particular facility, including a CCC.

Id. at 127.

In Swarzentruber v. Holinka, Civil No. 06-4928, 2007 WL 3237637 (D. Minn. Oct. 30, 2007), the Hon. John R. Tunheim addressed a similar claim. The petitioner, although having a projected release date years in the future, argued that he was eligible for RRC placement, contending that BOP program Statement 7310.04 conflicts with the discretionary factors expressed in 18 U.S.C. §3621(b). In rejecting this contention, Judge Tunheim found that the Program Statement was completely consistent with 18 U.S.C. §3624( c), which stipulates that the BOP "shall, to the extent practicable, assure that a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment spends a reasonable part, not to exceed six months, of the last ten percentum of the term to be served" in a halfway house. Judge Tunheim explained:

Program Statement 7310.04 expressly incorporates the statutory requirement of § 3624(c) by limiting the maximum term of RRC placement to six months.

While §3621(b) sets forth discretionary factors to guide BOP's case-by-case determination of RRC eligibility, the language of §3624(c) makes clear that the BOP's exercise of discretion is limited, to the extent practicable, to six months of RRC placement. For these reasons, the Court finds that Program Statement 7310.04 does not improperly limit the BOP's discretion to make individualized determinations of prisoners' RRC eligibility.

Id. at *2. Accord Cretney v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, Civil Action No. 06-CV-15422, 2007 WL 4287556, at *3. (E.D. Mich. Dec. 5, 2007)("Every court to have considered the issue has concluded that the BOP has no initial or continuing duty to evaluate a prisoner's suitability for RRC placement, and has upheld the BOP's determination to conduct such reviews in the last 11 to 13 months of the sentence.").

I have previously addressed this matter in Rodriguez-Calderon v. Lindsay, No. 3:05-CV-2640, 2007 WL 2756878 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 20, 2007), app. dismissed, No. 07-3929 (3d Cir. Feb. 19, 2008), and Nunez v. Lindsay, No. 3:CV-06-1413, 2007 WL 1875797 (M.D. Pa. June 27, 2007), concluding in both cases that an inmate is not entitled to consideration for RRC placement years in advance of the projected expiration date of his sentence. As I observed in Rodriguez-Calderon, "Woodall did not address the issue presented here, i.e., must the BOP consider the factors set forth in § 3621(b) when an inmate asks to be transferred to a Residential Re-entry Center for the final years of his sentence." 2007 WL 2756878 at *2. In Nunez, I rejected the attempt to compel RRC placement several years before an anticipated release date, stating:

Nothing in 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b) mandates if or when the BOP is required to transfer, or even consider an inmate's request for transfer, to any particular facility. Rather, it is the pre-release statute, § 3624(c) which commands that consideration for Residential Re-entry Center placement ...

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