United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.
Demetrius Hill, an inmate presently confined at the Canaan United States Penitentiary, Waymart, Pennsylvania (USP-Canaan), filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Hill's pending action does not challenge the legality of his criminal conviction or the resulting sentence. Rather, Petitioner seeks relief with respect to two (2) institutional misconduct charges he received for alleged misuse of the telephone. See Doc. 1, p. 1. Service of the petition was previously ordered.
On October 27, 2011, Petitioner was issued a misconduct, Incident Report (IR) # 2226599, which charged him with use of the telephone for abuses other than criminal (a Code 297 offense) and giving and/or receiving anything of value to another inmate (a Code 328 offense). It was alleged that while Inmate Hill was on telephone restriction, a fellow prisoner placed a call on the Petitioner's behalf to Jessica Hill on October 19, 2011 and passed messages back and forth between the Petitioner and Ms. Hill. The misconduct concluded that Hill and the other prisoner had engaged in actions which circumvented institutional phone monitoring procedures.
The second misconduct, IR # 2226601, which was also issued on October 27, 2011, similarly charged Hill with Code 297 & 328 offenses. Those charges stemmed from alleged conduct which transpired approximately three days after the initial incident. Specifically, it was as asserted that on October 22, 2011 Hill used another inmate's phone account and PAC number to place a phone call.
On November 2, 2011, the Unit Discipline Committee (UDC) referred both charges to a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) for further proceedings. Hearings on both charges were conducted by DHO Jordan on March 22, 2012. With respect to IR # 2226599 Petitioner was found guilty of the Code 297 offense and was issued sanctions including a twenty-seven (27) day loss of good conduct time. See Doc. 13, p. 25. The Petitioner was also found guilty of the Code 297 offense charged in IR # 2226601 and similarly sanctioned to a twenty-seven (27) day loss of good conduct time. See id. at p. 50.
Petitioner initially claims that he is entitled to federal habeas corpus relief on the grounds that he was convicted of both charges solely because he is a Black man in violation of his equal protection rights. See Doc. 1, p. 1. Petitioner explains that two White prisoners were involved in the underlying incidents. Both of those White inmates were issued disciplinary charges and entered guilty pleas. However, Hill asserts that the White prisoners were given less severe sanctions.
Hill next asserts that was never properly served with one of the incident reports and he requested but was denied the assistance of a staff representative of his choice. With respect to IR # 2226601, Hill vaguely maintains that said charge was meritless because the prison's voice recognition system prevents him from using another's prisoner's account to place a call. The Petitioner also contends that the presiding DHO denied him opportunity to contact witnesses or obtain documentary evidence. It is also alleged that the DHO made racially derogatory remarks and that excessive racially motivated sanctions were imposed.
Habeas corpus review under § 2241 "allows a federal prisoner to challenge the execution' of his sentence." Woodall v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 432 F.3d 235, 241 (3d Cir. 2005). A habeas corpus petition may be brought by a prisoner who seeks to challenge either the fact or duration of his confinement in prison. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973), Telford v. Hepting, 980 F.2d 745, 748 (3d Cir. 1993). Federal habeas corpus review is available only "where the deprivation of rights is such that it necessarily impacts the fact or length of detention." Leamer v. Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 540 (3d Cir. 2002).
The United States Supreme Court in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-73 (1974), held that a prisoner deprived of good time credits as a sanction for misconduct is entitled to certain due process protections in a prison disciplinary proceeding. Wolff noted that "prison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a criminal prosecution and the full panoply of rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not apply." Id. at 556. Nonetheless, the United States Supreme Court held that a prisoner facing a loss of good time credits is entitled to some procedural protection. Id. at 563-71.
A subsequent United States Supreme Court decision, Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 480-84 (1995), reiterated that the due process safeguards set forth in Wolff must be provided when the challenged disciplinary proceeding results in a loss of good time credits. See also Young v. Kann, 926 F.2d 1396, 1399 (3d Cir. 1991) (a federal prisoner has a constitutionally protected liberty interest in good time credit); Griffin v. Spratt, 969 F.2d 16, 19 (3d Cir. 1992). Since Petitioner was undisputably sanctioned to a loss of good time credits with respect to both misconducts which adversely affected the duration of his ongoing federal confinement, his claims are properly raised in a § 2241 petition.
Respondent's initial argument seeks dismissal of the portion of the petition pertaining to IR # 2226599 and the October 19, 2011 phone call on the grounds that Hill failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies. See Doc. 12, p. 19. Specifically, it is asserted that Petitioner never filed a ...