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Matthew Davis v. B.A. Bledsoe

November 9, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge

(Judge Nealon) (Magistrate Judge Carlson)


I. Background--Davis' Habeas Corpus Petition and Discovery Request

This case is a habeas corpus petition filed by a federal prisoner pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. That petition alleges that the Bureau of Prisons is denying petitioner, who is housed in the Special Management Unit at the Lewisburg penitentiary, favorable early residential release consideration. In connection with this petition, Davis has filed a motion for discovery, which seeks far-ranging statistical information regarding the rate of residential re-entry placements at the United States Penitentiary--Lewisburg, and throughout the federal prison system. (Doc. 10) Because this discovery request misconstrues the nature of this Court's inquiry, and the scope of discovery in cases of this type, the motion will be denied.

II. Discussion

Habeas petitioners have no absolute right to make discovery demands upon respondents. Rather, decisions on discovery requests rest in the sound discretion of the court. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has noted:

Just as bald assertions and conclusory allegations do not afford a sufficient ground for an evidentiary hearing, see Wacht v. Cardwell, 604 F.2d 1245, 1246 n. 2 (9th Cir.1979), neither do they provide a basis for imposing upon the state the burden of responding in discovery to every habeas petitioner who chooses to seek such discovery. Under Rule 6(a) of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases Under § 2254 the district court has discretion to decide the extent to which discovery is appropriate. The Advisory Committee Note to Rule 6 makes clear that prior court approval is required to prevent abuse.

Mayberry v. Petsock, 821 F.2d 179, 185 (3d Cir. 1987)

These discovery rules in § 2254 petitions apply with equal force to federal habeas petitions under § 2241. See, e.g., Patton v. Fenton, 491 F. Supp. 156, 158-59 (M.D. Pa. 1979) (explaining that habeas rules are "applicable to Section 2241 petitions through Rule 1(b)").

Exercising this discretion, we will deny Davis' request at this time. Davis' petition asserts a right to early residential release based upon the Second Chance Act 18 U.S.C. § 3624. With respect to habeas claims premised on this Act, as we have noted, in April of 2008, the Second Chance Act of 2007, Pub. L. No. 110-199, went into effect. This act contains several provisions which are designed to aid prisoners in their transition back into society. For example, the Act authorizes the Bureau of Prisons to place certain inmates in Residential Re-entry Centers for up to one year at the end of their prison terms to aid their readjustment into society. See 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c)(1).*fn1

While the Act promotes policies assisting inmates in reintegration into society, nothing in the Act is mandatory, and the Act does not compel the Bureau of Prisons to provide particular inmates with a specific community confinement or home detention placement. Quite the contrary, the statutory text makes it clear that prison officials retain their broad discretion in placing, housing, transferring and classifying inmates. Thus, 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c)(4) clearly states that the Act in no way restricts the broad discretion conferred upon the Bureau of Prisons under 18 U.S.C. § 3621 to make decisions on how best to house inmates, providing that: "Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit or restrict the authority of the Director of the Bureau of Prisons under section 3621". Section 3621, in turn, broadly reaffirms the discretion of prison officials in this field to make appropriate prison placement decisions based upon five statutory factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b). *fn2

Similarly, while the Second Chance Act amended 42 U.S.C. § 17541 to encourage the Bureau of Prisons to examine early release and social re-integration for certain offenders, the Act expressly reaffirms that decisions relating to which offenders may qualify for the program involve assessments that rest in the sound discretion of the Bureau of Prisons. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 17541(a)(2) and (g)(5).

Indeed, as it relates to inmate community confinement decisions, the Second Chance Act speaks directly to the discretion retained by the Bureau of Prisons in 18 U.S.C. ...

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