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James Stark v. Eric J. Holder

November 17, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Rambo)


Plaintiff James Stark, is a federal inmate currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Allenwood Low ("LSCI-Allenwood") in White Deer, Pennsylvania. On January 2, 2011, Stark filed the instant petition for a writ of mandamus, seeking declaratory or mandamus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201, 28 U.S.C. § 1361, and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 702. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") officials have not provided him with sufficient information to help him determine if his participation in certain prison skills development programs has been sufficient to entitle him to placement in a Residential Re-entry Center ("RRC") in accordance with the Federal Prisoner Re-entry Initiative provision of the Second Chance Act of 2007, 42 U.S.C. § 17541(a)(1)(G). As relief, Plaintiff seeks an order compelling Defendants to provide him with a listing of incentive programs for prisoner participation in skills development programming.

Before the court are cross-motions for summary judgment, filed by all Defendants and Plaintiff. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment and deny Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

I. Background

In addressing the instant motions, the court will first set forth the relevant facts and procedural history. In setting forth the relevant facts, the court will note any factual disputes between the parties by presenting both parties' contentions.

A. Facts

On October 28, 2008, Plaintiff was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of sixty (60) months in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. (Doc. 19 ¶ 2.) Assuming Plaintiff earns all of his good time credit, his projected release date from the BOP is October 18, 2012. (Id. ¶ 3.)

Plaintiff has been incarcerated at LSCI-Allenwood since December 8, 2008. (Id. ¶ 1.) On February 22, 2010, Plaintiff submitted administrative remedy request 578783-F1 to LSCI-Allenwood's Warden, stating:

I have completed many educational and institutional programs during my incarceration. The Second Chance Act contains a Federal Prisoner Re-entry Initiative which provides for incentives for program participation under 42 U.S.C. § 1754 [sic]. I am requesting information about the Initiative so that I know that I am taking the correct programming, in order to qualify to the incentives. My Case Mgr was unable to provide this information to me during the latest team on 1-13-10. I filed a BP-8 re this issue and was informed that the RRC placement would be decided at 17 months from release. I need this info now, because if I wait until 17 months it will be too late to take full advantage of program options. (Id. ¶ 4; Doc. 1, Ex. B.) In response to this request, the Warden informed Plaintiff:

The Bureau of Prisons encourages inmates to participate in a variety of programming in order to assist them with reintegration in society . . . . However, while program participation is an important consideration, there is no requirement that inmates receive a 12 month recommendation. An RRC recommendation is based on a variety of factors on an individual, case by case basis for each inmate. (Doc. 19 ¶ 5; Doc. 1, Ex. B.) On March 16, 2010, Plaintiff appealed the Warden's response to the BOP's Regional Director, stating:

I disagree with the Warden's response to my BP-9 (Response #578783-F1), because it does not address the issues I raise. I am requesting information on what kind of incentives for program participation are contained in the Fedearl Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative of the Second Chance Act under 42 U.S.C. § 17541. I have asked this question to my case manager and also to the Warden. Both responses indicate that I will be considered for RRC placement at 17 months before release. The Warden's response encourages me "to participate in a variety of programming." However, if I do not know which programs will help me most in consideration for maximum RRC placement, I may not be utilizing my programming choices correctly. If I wait until 17 months to change my focus, it will be too late to help me maximize my halfway house time. I am asking for the regulations. If they do not exist, then why don't they exist?

(Doc. 19 ¶ 6; Doc. 1, Ex. B.) The Regional Director denied Plaintiff's appeal, stating:

Program Statement 5322, Inmate Classification and Program Review, provides policy and procedures for the classification and subsequent review of the security, custody and program needs of inmates who have been designated for service of a sentence. The program plan should include work and programming activities which will assist the inmate to develop skills to make a successful transition back into the community. Some recommended programs may provide an immediate incentive while other have long-range benefits. The information and program recommendations are added to the Inmate Skills Development Program (ISDS), which has been developed and implemented Bureau-wide to gather pertinent information into a centralized electronic site. The SCA also provides for a review for up to 12 months in a Residential Re-Entry Center (RRC).

A review of your appeal reveals you are serving a 60-month term with an October 18, 2012, projected release date. Program Statement 7310.04, CCC Utilization and Transfer Procedures, indicates inmates are considered for RRC placements 17-19 months from their projected release date. As indicated by the Warden, your need for community programs will be reexamined during that time frame. This review will be completed in compliance with the above policy and the provisions of the SCA. You may also seek assistance from your unit team for explanation of the SCA criteria. Accordingly, your appeal is denied. (Doc. 19 ¶ 7; Doc. 1, Ex B.) In Plaintiff's June 21, 2010 appeal to the Central Office, he stated:

I disagree with, and hereby appeal the response of the Regional Office to my BP-10 because it avoids answering my question. Section 17541 of the Second Chance Act requires the BOP "to provide incentives for prisoner participation in skills development programs." 42 U.S.C. § 17541(a)(1)(G). I am currently taking a number of what I am told are "skills development courses," however, I do not know whether they are the skills development courses that would entitle me to the incentives mandated by section 17541 because no one will tell me what the incentives are or whether they exist, or what skills development courses I need to avail myself of any incentives. It is misleading to respond that I will be considered for halfway house 17-19 months pre-release, as I am not seeking to be considered for halfway house. I seek only to learn whether what I am doing now will qualify me for incentives, and what the incentives are. The Second Chance Act required that the BOP establish an incentive program regarding an inmate's participation in skills development programs within 90 days of the passing of the Act in April 2008, two full years ago. RELIEF REQUESTED: Please advise me of the incentives required by U.S.C. § 17541(a)(1)(G) [sic], and what skills development courses I need to take to avail myself of those incentives. (Doc. 19 ¶ 8; Doc. 1, Ex. B.) As of the date of the filing of the instant action, Plaintiff had not received a response to this appeal from the Central Office, and thus, Plaintiff has exhausted his available administrative remedies. (See Doc. 19 ¶ 9.)

In his petition, Plaintiff seeks to compel the Defendants to provide him with a list of incentives for prisoner participation in skills development programming as he asserts is required by the Second Chance Act of 2007, 42 U.S.C. § 17541(a)(1)(G). (Id. ¶ 10.) The BOP routinely provides incentives for inmates who work well with others, who participate in the literacy program, apprenticeship training, vocational training courses, or who make exceptional accomplishments in work assignments. (Id. ¶ 11.) These incentives include monetary awards, performance pay awards, bonus pay, special bonus pay, special awards, and other recognition. (Id. ¶ 12.)

Several Psychology Service Programs provide incentives upon successful completion, including:

a. The Non-Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program (NRDATP), which provides for incentives which can include monetary awards of up to thirty dollars, maximum RRC placement, and tangible incentives such as books, t-shirts and cups;

b. The Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP), which provides for incentives, some of which are financial awards, nearer release transfers, consideration for maximum RRC placement time, early release under 18 U.S.C. § 3621(e), enhancement awards, and local incentives such as preferred living quarters or special recognition;

c. The Bureau Rehabilitation and Values Enhancement (BRAVE) program and the Challenge Program provide for financial awards, local incentives, tangible incentives, and graduation ceremonies;

d. For qualified inmates, the Mental Health Treatment Programs offer a series of programs dedicated to the management and treatment of the BOP's seriously mentally ill and behavior disordered inmates, and provide for local incentives such as preferred living quarters and early mainline, ...

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