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Stephen George, Jr. v. Archie Longley

April 6, 2011

STEPHEN GEORGE, JR. PETITIONER,
v.
ARCHIE LONGLEY, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter

OPINION AND ORDER*fn1

Petitioner Stephen George, Jr. is a federal inmate who is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution, McKean. He is serving a 71-month term of imprisonment, which was imposed by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on February 15, 2006. Before this Court is his petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, in which he disputes the Bureau of Prisons' (the "BOP's" or "Bureau's") computation of his federal sentence. He claims he is entitled to additional credit against his sentence.

I. Relevant Statutes and BOP Policy

The BOP is the agency responsible for implementing and applying federal law concerning the computation of federal sentences. See, e.g., United States v. Wilson, 503 U.S. 329, 331 (1992); 28 C.F.R. § 0.96. In this case, the following statutes are relevant: 18 U.S.C. § 3584(a), which governs a federal sentencing court's authority to order that a federal sentence be served concurrently with a state sentence; 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b), which governs the BOP's authority to designate a state prison as a place of confinement for service of a federal sentence; 18 U.S.C. § 3585(a), which governs the date upon which a federal sentence commences; and, 18 U.S.C. § 3585(b), which governs the credit an inmate can receive for time he spent in official detention prior to the date his federal sentence commenced (known as "prior custody credit.") The BOP's policies regarding sentence computation are set forth in Program Statement 5880.28, Sentence Computation Manual ("PS 5880.28"). Also relevant to this case is Program Statement 5160.05, Designation of State Institution for Service of Federal Sentence ("PS 5160.05").*fn2

A. The determination of whether a federal sentence is concurrent with or consecutive to a state sentence 18 U.S.C. § 3584(a) provides, in relevant part:

[I]f a term of imprisonment is imposed on a defendant who is already subject to an undischarged term of imprisonment, the terms may run concurrently or consecutively.. Multiple terms of imprisonment imposed at different times run consecutively unless the court orders that the terms are to run concurrently.*fn3 (Emphasis added). The BOP presumes that federal and state sentences are to be served consecutively unless the federal sentencing court orders that the sentences are to be served concurrently. See PS 5880.28, Chapt. I, at pp. 31-33; PS 5160.05 at pp. 2-7. It also recognizes that a federal sentencing court "may, from time to time, order concurrent service of the federal sentence at some time after its imposition. This may occur when primary jurisdiction resided with the state and the court believed mistakenly that the inmate was in federal custody for service of the federal sentence on the date of imposition." PS 5160.05 at p. 5.

Importantly, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit acknowledged in Barden v. Keohane, 921 F.2d 476, 482-83 (3d Cir. 1990), the BOP has the authority to effectuate the service of concurrent federal and state sentences in circumstances when the intent of the federal sentencing court or the goals of the criminal justice system would make the exercise of that authority appropriate. See also PS 5160.05 at pp. 5-7. For example, the BOP recognizes that the following might occur: the state had primary custody over an inmate, his federal sentence is imposed first, the federal sentencing court does not order that the federal sentence be served concurrently with any state sentence, and then the state court subsequently imposes a state sentence. Barden, 921 F.2d at 478-83; PS 5160.05 at pp. 5-7. When this occurs, the inmate will have served his state sentence at a state institution and upon release is sent to federal custody for service of his federal sentence. The inmate is permitted to request that the BOP retroactively designate the state institution as the detention facility where he began service of his federal sentence pursuant to its authority under 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b), which in effect amounts to the imposition of a retroactive concurrent federal sentence. Id. at 478-83; PS 5160.05 at pp. 5-7.

Although the BOP must consider the inmate's request for concurrent service of sentences, it is not obligated to grant the request. Barden, 921 F.2d at 478 n.4; PS 5160.05 at p. 6. In making its determination, the BOP will review the federal sentencing court's Judgment and Commitment Order, the state sentence data records, and any other pertinent information relating to the federal and state sentences. PS 5160.05 at pp. 5-7. BOP policy further instructs:

In determining whether a designation for concurrent service may be appropriate (e.g., the federal sentence is imposed first and there is no order or recommendation regarding the service of the sentence in relationship to the yet to be imposed state term), the [The Regional Inmate Systems Administrator ("RISA")] will send a letter to the sentencing court (either the Chambers of the Judge, U.S. Attorney's Office, and/or U.S. Probation Office, as appropriate) inquiring whether the court has any objections. Regardless of where the original inquiry is directed, the U.S. Attorney's Office and U.S. Probation Office will receive a courtesy copy.

If, after 60 days, a response is not received from the sentencing court, the RISA will address the issue with the Regional Counsel and a decision will be made regarding concurrency. PS 5160.05 at p. 6.

B. Calculation of the date upon which a federal sentence commences 18 U.S.C. § 3585(a) governs the date a federal sentence commences, and it provides:

(a) Commencement of sentence. -- A sentence to a term of imprisonment commences on the date the defendant is received in custody awaiting transportation to, or arrives voluntarily to commence service of sentence at, the official detention facility at which the sentence is to be served.

A federal sentence cannot commence earlier than the date on which it was imposed. PS 5880.28, Chapt. I, at p. 13; United States v. LaBeille-Soto, 163 F.3d 93, 98 (2nd Cir. 1998); Shelvy v. Whitfield, 718 F.2d 441, 444 (D.C. Cir. 1983).

When an inmate is only facing service of a federal sentence, the application of 18 U.S.C. § 3585(a) is straightforward. The BOP will designate the inmate to a federal detention facility and it will calculate the federal sentence to have commenced on the date it was imposed.

PS 5880.28, Chapt. I, at p. 12. Oftentimes, however (and as was the case here), an inmate is subject to multiple sentences, e.g., at the time his federal sentence is imposed he is subject to a state sentence. In that case, the federal and state governments must resolve where and/or in what order the inmate will serve his multiple sentences. At common law, the "primary custody" doctrine (sometimes referred to as "primary jurisdiction" doctrine) developed to assist the sovereigns in making these determinations and to provide an orderly method by which to prosecute and incarcerate an individual that violated the law of more than one sovereign. The doctrine was recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Ponzi v. Fessenden, 258 U.S. 254 (1922). See, e.g., Bowman v. Wilson, 672 F.2d 1145, 1153-54 (3d Cir. 1982); Peterson v. Marberry, Docket No. 1:07-56, 2009 WL 55913 at *3-5 (W.D. Pa. Jan. 5, 2009).

In relevant part, the primary custody doctrine provides that the sovereign that first arrests an individual has primary custody over him. That sovereign's claim over the individual has priority over all other sovereigns that subsequently arrest him. The sovereign with primary custody is entitled to have the individual serve a sentence it imposes before he serves a sentence imposed by any other jurisdiction. See, e.g., Bowman, 672 F.2d at 1153-54. Primary custody remains vested in the sovereign that first arrests the individual until it "relinquishes its priority by, e.g., bail release, dismissal of the state charges, parole release, or expiration of the sentence." Chambers v. Holland, 920 F.Supp. 618, 622 (M.D. Pa. 1996) (citations omitted).

The BOP has incorporated the common law primary custody doctrine into its policies. Thus, if the federal government has primary custody of an inmate on the date his federal sentence is imposed, the federal government is entitled to have that inmate serve his federal sentence upon imposition. In such a case, the BOP will designate the inmate to a federal detention facility for service of the federal sentence and will calculate his federal sentence to have commenced on the date the federal sentencing court imposed it, even if at that same time the inmate is serving a concurrent state sentence. PS 5880.28, Chapt. I, at pp. 12-13.

If an inmate is in the primary custody of the state when his federal sentence is imposed and if his federal sentence is consecutive to any state sentence, the inmate will be returned to the state after federal sentencing. The BOP will commence the inmate's federal sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3585(a) when the state relinquishes its priority and releases him to federal custody. PS 5880.28, Chapt. I, at pp. 12-13, 31-33; see also PS 5160.05 at pp. 2-12. As set forth below, that is what occurred in Petitioner's case.

Finally, if the inmate is in the primary custody of the state and the federal sentencing court orders that he serve his federal sentence concurrently with any state sentence, the BOP will return custody of the inmate to the state, commence the federal sentence, and designate the state facility as the place of service of the federal sentence pursuant to its authority under 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b). PS 5880.28, Chapt. I, at pp. 13, 32A-33; PS 5160.05 at pp. 2-12.

C. Prior Custody Credit

Prior custody credit is governed by 18 U.S.C. § 3585(b), which provides:

(b) Credit for prior custody. -- A defendant shall be given credit toward the service of a term of imprisonment for any time he has spent in official detention ...


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