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James v. Schism

June 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner


Petitioner Michael James ("James"), a federal inmate confined at the Low Security Correctional Institution at Allenwood, Pennsylvania, filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on April 14, 2010. (Doc. 1.) He challenges the decision of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to limit the portion of his sentence served in a residential re-entry center ("RRC") to 150-180 days on the basis that it runs afoul of the Second Chance Act of 2007.

The petition is presently ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, the petition will be denied.

I. Background

James is presently serving a 114-month sentence for armed bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(d) and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), with a projected release date, including earned good time credit, of March 16, 2011. (Doc. 1-3, Declaration of Michael James ("James Decl."), at 1, ¶ 3; Doc. 8-2, Declaration of Jon Cramer, Case Manager at the Low Security Correctional Institution at Allenwood ("Cramer Decl.") at 3, 4, ¶ 3.)

On April 9, 2008, the Second Chance Act of 2007, Pub. L. No. 110-199, Title II, § 251, 122 Stat. 657, 692 (the "Second Chance Act"), codified at 18 U.S.C. §§ 3621, 3624, was signed into law. The Act increases the duration of pre-release placement in an RRC from six to twelve months and requires the BOP to make an individual determination that ensures that the placement be "of sufficient duration to provide the greatest likelihood of successful reintegration into the community." 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c)(6)(C) (Apr. 9, 2008). Thereafter, the BOP issued two guidance memoranda, dated April 14, 2008 (Doc. 8-2, at 7-16), and November 14, 2008 (Doc. 8-3, at 22-34), both of which required approval from the Regional Director for RRC placements of longer than six months. Interim regulations passed on October 21, 2008, state that "[i]nmates may be designated to community confinement as a condition of pre-release custody and programming during the final months of the inmate's term of imprisonment, not to exceed twelve months." 28 C.F.R. § 570.21(a). Moreover "[i]nmates will be considered for pre-release community confinement in a manner consistent with 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b), determined on an individual basis, and of sufficient duration to provide the greatest likelihood of successful reintegration into the community, within the time-frames set forth in this part." 28 C.F.R. § 570.22 (Oct. 22, 2008).

Recommendations for RRC placement are ordinarily reviewed with the inmate and unit team seventeen to nineteen months prior to the inmate's probable release date. (Doc. 8-2, Cramer Decl., at 4, ¶ 5.) Referrals are then forwarded to the Community Corrections Manager at least sixty days prior to the maximum recommended date. (Id. at ¶ 6, citing BOP Program Statement 7310.04, Community Corrections Center Utilization and Transfer Procedures.) "These recommendations and referrals are based on assessments of inmate needs for services, public safety, and the necessity of the Bureau to manage its inmate population responsibly. Essentially, when assessing an inmate for recommendation, the Unit Team reviews the resources of the placement facility, the resources available to the inmate in that area, the nature and circumstances of the inmate's offense, the history and characteristics of the inmate, and any other pertinent information or documents that will assist with his placement at an RRC [as required under 18 U.S.C. § 3621]." (Id. at 4, 5, ¶¶ 7, 8.)

On July 9, 2009, a reconsideration review was completed for James by his unit team as follows:

Upon completion of this review, it was determined that: 1) an RRC in Philadelphia should maintain adequate re-entry resources and necessary substance abuse programming; 2) there were no known Court recommendations; 3) there were no known policy statements by the U.S. Sentencing Commission; 4) James's sentence length was considered as well as the fact that he completed four release preparation courses. He has a high school diploma and skills as a forklift operator, as a painter, carpenter, and experience in factory work. Although he has not secured residency, he has saved a significant amount of money for release preparation. In addition, it was noted that James incurred several incident reports during his term of incarceration and; 5) his current offenses. (Id. at 5, ¶ 9; Doc. 8-3, at 16.) On January 29, 2010, an institutional referral was completed recommending an RRC placement of 150-180 days. (Doc. 8-2, at 5., ¶ 10; Doc. 8-3, at 17.) The warden signed the referral assenting to the recommended placement of 150-180 days, resulting in an RRC placement date of September 21, 2010. (Id.)

James notes that the BOP failed to consider that he completed a fifth course entitled "Employment Readiness Class" on November 12, 2009. (Doc. 9, at 7.) In addition, he is in the process of entering a sixth class and is "willing to participate in any and all appropriate facility-approved programs upon his designation to community confinement." (Id. at 2, ¶ 3.)

Prior to filing the instant petition, James fully exhausted his administrative remedies. (Doc. 2, at 5; Doc. 9, at 2, ¶ 6.)

II. Discussion

Section 2241 "confers jurisdiction on district courts to issue writs of habeas corpus in response to a petition from a state or federal prisoner who 'is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.' " Coady v. Vaughn, 251 F.3d 480, 484 (3d Cir. 2001). The federal habeas statute also requires that the petitioner be in custody "under the conviction or sentence under attack at the time his petition is filed." Lee v. Stickman, 357 F.3d 338, 342 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 490-91, 109 S.Ct. 1923, 104 L.Ed.2d 540 (1989)). Section 2241, unlike other federal habeas statutes, "confers habeas jurisdiction to hear the petition of a federal prisoner who is challenging not the validity but the execution of his sentence," Coady, 251 F.3d at 485. (quoting 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241(a) and (c) (3)). This includes a challenge to the BOP's decision to exclude an inmate from release to an RRC. Woodall v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 432 F.3d 235, 242, 243-44 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Jimian v. Nash, 245 F.3d 144, 147 (2d Cir. 2001)).

The BOP has authority to determine inmate placements according to 18 U.S.C. ยงยง 3621(b) and 3624(c). Section 3621(b) gives the BOP authority to determine the location of an inmate's imprisonment by considering (1) the resources of the facility contemplated; (2) the nature and circumstances of the offense; (3) the history and characteristics of the prisoner; (4) any statement by the sentencing court concerning the purpose for which the sentence was imposed or a recommendation of a particular type of correctional facility; (5) any pertinent policy statement issued by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to section 994(a)(2) of Title 28. Section 3624(c) "describes the BOP's obligation to prepare prisoners for community re-entry by, inter alia, placing them in community confinement." Woodall, 432 F.3d at 239. When considering an individual's eligibility for pre-release placement in an RRC, the BOP is required to ensure that decisions are made: (A) ...

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