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Garrison v. Clark

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 25, 2017

JOHN PATRICK GARRISON, Petitioner,
v.
MICHAEL CLARK, et al., Respondents.

          OPINION [1]

          SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER United States Magistrate Judge.

         Presently before the Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by state prisoner John Patrick Garrison (the "Petitioner") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. [ECF Nos. 3]. He challenges the decision made by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (the "Board") to deny him parole. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied and a certificate of appealability is denied.

         I.

         A. Relevant Background

         On February 18, 2011, the Petitioner was sentenced in the Court of Common Pleas of Venango County at criminal docket CP-61-CR-861-2010 to a term of 9 months to 1.5 years of incarceration on a count of False Alarms. Later that same year, on October 31, 2011, he was sentenced at criminal docket CP-61-CR-64-2011 to a term of incarceration of: (1) 1 year and 3 months to 5 years on a count of Endangering Welfare of Children; and (2) 1 to 5 years on a count of Corruption of Minors. (Resp's Ex. 1).

         In addition to establishing an offender's minimum and maximum terms when imposing a sentence of total confinement, the sentencing judge in a Pennsylvania court is also required to make a determination as to the offender's eligibility for the Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive ("RRRI") program.[2] Commonwealth v. Hansley, 47 A.3d 1180, 1187 (Pa. 2012); Commonwealth v. Robinson, 7 A.3d 868 (Pa.Super.Ct. 2010). The intent of the RRRI program is to encourage "eligible offenders" in the custody of the Department of Corrections ("DOC") "to participate in and successfully complete evidence-based programs under this chapter that reduce the likelihood of recidivism and improve public safety." 61 Pa.C.S. § 4504(b). If an offender is an "eligible offender, " the sentencing court at the time of sentencing will impose a minimum and maximum sentence as required by 42 Pa.C.S. § 9752 (relating to sentencing proceeding generally) and also impose a RRRI minimum sentence.

         In this case, the Petitioner's minimum sentence expiration date for his aggregated sentence was July 3, 2014. The sentencing court found that he was RRRI eligible and his RRRI minimum sentence expiration date was October 3, 2013. His maximum sentence date is April 3, 2022. (Resp's Ex. 1).

         As his RRRI minimum sentence date approached, the Board considered whether the Petitioner should be paroled. On October 1, 2013, it issued a decision in which it denied him parole. (Resp's Ex. 2). In the event that an offender has been sentenced to a RRRI minimum sentence and is not paroled pursuant to the RRRI program, the Board retains its traditional powers of parole and reparole as provided in Chapter 61 of the Prisons and Parole Code. 61 Pa.C.S. § 4507 ("If an inmate has been sentenced by a court to a recidivism risk reduction incentive minimum sentence and the inmate is not paroled under this chapter, the board may grant parole. Except as otherwise provided under this chapter, the board shall retain its power and authority to parole, commit and reparole inmates committed to the department.")

         The Board considered the Petitioner for parole on three subsequent occasions and on each occasion it denied him parole. (Resp's Exs. 3, 4 and 5). It issued its most recent decision on June 17, 2016, and informed the Petitioner that:

Following an interview with you and a review of your file, and having considered all matters required pursuant to the Board of Probation and Parole, [the Board] in the exercise of its discretion, has determined at this time that: you are denied parole/reparole. The reasons for the Board's decision include the following:
Your risk and needs assessment indicating your level of risk to the community.
The negative recommendation made by the Department of Corrections.
Your minimization/denial of the nature and circumstances of the ...

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