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Wolters v. Thomas

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 20, 2014

J. E. THOMAS, WARDEN, Respondent.


RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.


Andrew Wolters, an inmate presently confined at the McCreary United States Penitentiary, Pine Knot, Kentucky (USP-McCreary), filed this pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Named as sole Respondent is Warden Thomas who is employed at the Petitioner's prior place of confinement, the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (USP-Lewisburg).[1]

Petitioner does not challenge the legality of his criminal conviction, the resulting sentence, or the execution of his sentence.[2] Rather, Wolters states that following his September 6, 2011 arrival at USP-Lewisburg he was confined in the prison's Special Management Unit (SMU) in retaliation for filing complaints of sex abuse and refusing to participate in the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (IFRP).[3] See Doc. 1, p. 7, Ground One. He also asserts that prison officials verbally threatened his safety. While housed in the SMU, Petitioner further contends that he was subjected to physical and sexual assaults and was denied showers.

Petitioner next describes himself as being a non-gang member who was improperly housed with street gang members in the SMU in an effort discourage him from filing lawsuits.[4] See id. at Ground Two. He explains that prison staff ignore Bureau of Prison (BOP) policy by not segregating gang members and by using them to prevent non-affiliated inmates from exercising their constitutional rights.

Wolter also seeks relief with respect to disciplinary proceedings which resulted in loss of good time credit. He contends that he was issued "numerous false disciplinary reports in retaliation for complaints of sex abuse assaults [and] denial of medical treatment." Id., Ground Three. Wolters elaborates that he was issued seven (7) and perhaps as many as twenty (20) such retaliatory misconducts in 2012 including allegations of interfering with a security device, threatening bodily harm (3 charges); assault, refusing a direct order (2 charges); and destroying government property.[5]

Ground Four of the petition asserts that false entries were made in Petitioner's inmate file as additional retaliation. In an amended supporting statement (Doc. 4) Petitioner asserts that he is being denied needed medical care because of his initiation of lawsuits.


Conditions of Confinement

Respondent argues in part that Wolters is not entitled to relief with respect to his claims challenging the conditions of his confinement as such allegations are not properly raised in a federal habeas corpus petition. See Doc. 7, p. 14.

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).

In Suggs v. Bureau of Prisons, 2008 WL 2966740 *4 (D. N.J. July 31, 2008), it was reiterated that in cases where "a judgment in Petitioner's favor would not affect the fact or duration of Petitioner's incarceration, habeas relief is unavailable." Recognizing the observation in Woodall that the precise meaning of execution of sentence is hazy, it has been similarly held that to "the extent that a prisoner challenges his conditions of confinement, such claims must be raised by way of a civil rights action." Hairston v. Grondolsky, 2008 WL 618805, *2 (D.N.J. March 3, 2008).

From a careful review of the petition, it is clear that Wolter's contentions of retaliatory mistreatment while confined in the USP-Lewisburg SMU do not claim entitlement to speedier or immediate release from custody nor do they challenge the legality of his present incarceration. Those claims simply do not raise a claim related to the execution of his sentence as contemplated in Woodall. Rather, although Petitioner's allegations that he was verbally threatened; denied showers and needed medical care; improperly housed with gang members; subjected to false entries in his prison file; and physically and sexually assaulted by USP-Lewisburg officials raise violations of his constitutional rights they do not allege a loss of good time credits or an improper extension of the length of his confinement.

Thus, the purported constitutional misconduct did not adversely affect the fact or duration of Wolters' incarceration. See Wapnick v. True, Civil No. 4:CV-97-1829, slip op. (M.D. Pa. Dec. 17, 1997)(McClure, J.). Accordingly, since "habeas corpus is not an appropriate or available federal remedy" with respect to those allegations they are subject ...

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