The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter
Presently before the Court is Germaine Greene's petition for a writ of habeas corpus [ECF No. 4], which he filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. He challenges the length of his placement in a Residential Re-Entry Center ("RRC"). Specifically, he contends that by concluding that he will receive only 30 days of placement in an RRC, the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") has abused its discretion under 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c), as amended by the Second Chance Act of 2007 (the "SCA"), PL 110-199 (effective on April 9, 2008). He also contends that the RRC placement determination was made in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 17541.
A. Relevant Statutory/Regulatory/Policy Background
Three statutes are relevant to this case: 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b); 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c); and 42 U.S.C. § 17541. The BOP has the authority to designate the places at which an inmate shall serve his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b). In making its designation decision, the statute requires that the BOP consider: (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 court that imposed the sentence concerning the purposes for which the sentence to imprisonment was determined to be warranted, or recommending a type of penal or correctional facility as appropriate; and, (5) any pertinent policy statement by the Sentencing Commission. 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b)(1)-(5).
Section 3624(c) of 18 U.S.C. describes the BOP's obligation to prepare inmates for community re-entry by, inter alia, designating them to an RRC (formerly known as halfway houses) at the end of the term of imprisonment. Prior to April 9, 2008, that statute capped RRC placement for pre-release purposes to a maximum of six months. The SCA amended § 3624 to allow for a maximum of twelve months of pre-release RRC placement. It now reads, in relevant part:
(1) In general. -- The Director of the Bureau of Prisons shall, to the extent practicable, ensure that a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment spends a portion of the final months of that term (not to exceed 12 months), under conditions that will afford that prisoner a reasonable opportunity to adjust to and prepare for the re-entry of that prisoner into the community. Such conditions may include a community corrections facility. - - -
(4) No limitations. -- Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit or restrict the authority of the Director of the Bureau of Prisons under section 3621.
18 U.S.C. § 3624(c)(1) & (4) (as amended by the SCA) (emphasis added).
Section 3624(c) has always provided the BOP with the discretion to determine whether and how long an inmate is to be pre-released to an RRC. The BOP retains this discretion under the SCA, provided such pre-release confinement is practicable and the BOP considers § 3621(b)'s factors. The SCA does not mandate a particular method or procedure that the BOP must follow when making RRC referrals, as long as the criteria set forth at § 3621(b) are considered.
The BOP issued Program Statement ("P.S.") 7310.04, Community Corrections Center (CCC) Utilization and Transfer Procedure, on December 16, 1998, in order to provide guidelines to staff regarding the effective use of RRCs and how to make pre-release custody decisions. It advises, in relevant part, that:
Inmates in the following categories shall not ordinarily participate in [RRC] programs:
a. Inmates who are assigned a "Sex Offender" Public Safety Factor.
f. Inmates with unresolved pending charges, or detainers, which will likely lead to arrest, conviction, or confinement;
i. Inmates who pose a significant threat to the community. These are inmates whose current offense or behavioral history suggests a substantial or continuing threat to the community.
Section 17541 of 42 U.S.C., also created by the SCA, provides, inter alia, that "[the] Attorney General, in coordination with the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, shall, subject to the availability of appropriations, conduct the following activities to establish a Federal prisoner re-entry initiative:"
(1) The establishment of a Federal prisoner re-entry strategy to help prepare prisoners for release and successful reintegration into the community, including, ...