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Sutton v. Moser

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 1, 2019

GENE C. SUTTON, Petitioner,



         Pending before the Court[1] is a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus (ECF No. 3) filed by federal prisoner Gene C. Sutton ("Petitioner") under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 in which he challenges the manner in which the Federal Bureau of Prison ("BOP") is carrying out his sentence. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss the petition.

         I. Background

         On November 17, 2009, Petitioner was sentenced by the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois to 180 months of imprisonment, plus an additional five years of supervised release. At the present time, he is serving that sentence at FCI Loretto, which is located within the territorial boundaries of this Court.

         1. Good Conduct Time

         The BOP is the agency responsible for implementing and applying federal law concerning the computation of federal sentences. See, e.g., United States v. Wilson, 503 U.S. 329 (1992). Section 3624(b) of Title 18 governs the calculation of Good Conduct Time ("GCT") credits for federal inmates. On December 28, 2018, Congress passed the First Step Act of 2018 ("First Step Act" or the "Act"), Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194. Among other things, § 102 of the First Step Act amended 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b). As Respondent explains, the practical effect of the amendment is that inmates will receive an additional seven days of GCT per year spent in prison when compared to what they would have received under the pre-First Step Act statute. (ECF No. 19 at 5-6). The BOP did not immediately recalculate inmates' GCT because after the passage of the First Step Act because, at § 102(b)(2), the Act states:

EFEECTIVE DATE.-The amendments made by this subsection shall take effect beginning on the date that the Attorney General completes and releases the risk and needs assessment system under subchapter D of Chapter 229 of title 18 United States Code, as added by section 101(a) of this Act.

         Section 101(a) of First Step Act provides that the "risk and needs assessment system" be enacted "[n]ot later than 210 days after" the law's enactment, i.e., by July 19, 2019.

         Under pre-First Step Act law, the BOP calculated Petitioner's projected release date to be April 24, 2020, assuming that he received all the GCT available to him (which, at that time, was a total of 598 days of GCT). (ECF No. 19 at 2-3). When Petitioner filed his habeas petition with this Court, the BOP had not yet recalculated his GCT and projected released date under the First Step Act because the Attorney General's risk and needs assessment had not been issued. (Id. at 6, 10-12). Petitioner claimed that the BOP violated his right to due process by failing to give immediate effect to the First Step Act's amendment to § 3624(b). In the brief he filed contemporaneously with the habeas petition, he explained that he was seeking an order from the Court directing the BOP to immediately recalculate his GTC under the First Step Act. (ECF No. 4 at 10-11).

         2. Prerelease Transfer to a Residential Reentry Center or Home Confinement

         Section 3624(c) of Title 18, as amended by the Second Chance Act of 2007, Pub. L. No. 110-199, 122 Stat. 657 (April 9, 2008), governs the amount of time the BOP can, in its discretion, "prerelease" inmates to a Residential Reentry Center ("RRC")[2] or home confinement as they approach the end of their sentences. It provides that the BOP "shall, to the extent practicable, ensure that a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment spends a portion of the final months of that term (not to exceed 12 months), under conditions that will afford that prisoner a reasonable opportunity to adjust to and prepare for the reentry of that prisoner into the community. Such conditions may include a community correctional facility." 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c)(1). It also provides that the BOP's "authority under this subsection may be used to place a prisoner in home confinement for the shorter of 10 percent of the term of imprisonment of that prisoner or 6 months." Id., § 3624(c)(2). The BOP must consider prerelease placement on an individual basis and in a manner consistent with 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b) (which outlines five factors for the BOP to weigh in determining where to place an inmate).[3] See id., § 3624(c)(6); 28 C.F.R. § 570.22.

         On October 15, 2018, Petitioner met with his Unit Team to discuss a plan for his prerelease. (Resp's Ex. 1d, ECF No. 19-5 at 2-5). On January 7, 2019, FCI Loretto recommended that Petitioner be prereleased to an RRC for 151-180 days. (Resp's Ex. 1e, ECF No. 19-6 at 2-3). The BOP approved its recommendation. When Petitioner filed his habeas petition with this Court, he was scheduled to be transferred to an RRC on October 29, 2019. (Resp's Ex. 1f, ECF No. 19-7 at 2). Petitioner claimed that FCI Loretto staff did not properly consider § 3621(b)'s factors during his prerelease placement evaluation. (ECF No. 3 at 4; ECF No. 4 at 5). He also alleged that a case manager impermissibly considered his race as a factor. (ECF No. 4 at 5-6). As relief, he sought an order from this Court directing the BOP to reconsider him for the maximum allowable RRC time and instructing it that it may not consider his race and must "show [him] how the five factors pursuant to [§]3621(b) determined his eligibility for up to 180 days." (Id. at 10-11).

         3. Subsequent Relevant Events

         On June 7, 2019, which was before Respondent filed the Answer, Petitioner filed a combined Supplemental Brief and an Emergency Motion for Immediate Release to Home Confinement. (ECF No. 16). He contended that now the Court should direct the BOP to prerelease him to home confinement, in accordance with its authority under § 3624(c)(2), ...

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