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Ray v. Finley

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 29, 2019

STEVEN L. RAY, Petitioner
v.
SCOTT FINLEY, WARDEN, Respondent

          MEMORANDUM

          A. RICHARD CAPUTO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Steven L. Ray, an individual confined at the prison camp located at the Schuylkill Federal Correctional Complex (FCC Schuylkill) in Minersville, Pennsylvania, filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (ECF No. 1.) Petitioner challenges his conditions of confinement at his former prisons, primarily the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC Brooklyn), due to the BOP's failure to properly classify him and his extended stays in solitary confinement where Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officials deprived him of many privileges afforded inmates in general population. He also seeks a reduction of his sentence due to his significant assistant to the BOP as a confidential informant. (Id.) On June 28, 2019, the Court issued an Administrative Order directing Mr. Ray to pay the $5.00 filing fee in this matter. Mr. Ray has since paid the requisite filing fee. (ECF Nos. 16 and 19.) Since then, Mr. Ray has filed two motions for compassionate release, one pursuant to Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (ECF No. 17), and the other based on the First Step Act (ECF No. 24). Also pending is an “Emergency motion” seeking his immediate release and motion for this Court to issue a show cause order and hold a hearing (ECF No. 32).

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court will summarily dismiss the Petition and deny all pending motions.

         I. Standard of Review

         This matter is before the Court for screening. See28 U.S.C. § 2243. The Petition has been given preliminary consideration pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254 (applicable to § 2241 petitions under Rule 1(b)); see also Patton v. Fenton, 491 F.Supp. 156, 158-59 (M.D. Pa. 1979) (explaining that Rule 4 is “applicable to Section 2241 petitions through rule 1(b)”). Rule 4 provides in pertinent part: “If it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner.” Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts.

         Federal law provides two main avenues of relief to incarcerated persons: a petition for writ of habeas corpus and a civil-rights complaint. See Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750, 125 S.Ct. 1303, 1304, 158 L.Ed.2d 32 (2004) (per curiam). “Although both § 1983 and habeas corpus allow prisoners to challenge unconstitutional conduct by state officers, the two are not coextensive either in purpose of effect.” Leamer v. Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 540 (3d Cir. 2002). “Challenges to the validity of any confinement or to particulars affecting its duration are the province of habeas corpus, Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500, 92 S.Ct. 1827, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973); requests for relief turning on circumstances of confinement may be presented in a § 1983 action.” Muhammad, 540 U.S. at 750, 124 S.Ct. at 1304. “[W]hen the challenge is to a condition of confinement such that a finding in plaintiff's favor would not alter his sentence or undo his conviction, an action under § 1983 is appropriate.” Leamer, 288 F.3d at 542.[1]

         II. Background

         Petitioner, Steven Ray, was convicted pursuant to guilty pleas in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York of mail fraud and forgery of United States Treasury checks, and obstruction of justice in connection with the sentencing on the mail fraud and forgery counts. United States v. Ray, 713 Fed.Appx. 20 (2d Cir. 2017). On September 16, 2016, he received an 84-month sentence on the mail fraud and forgery plea and a concurrent 84-month sentence on the obstruction plea and ordered to pay restitution. (Id.) His projected release date is September 20, 2021.[2]

         In his Petition, Mr. Ray challenges the “conditions of [his] confinement.” (ECF No. 1 at 2.) First, Mr. Ray claims the BOP misclassified him resulting in his receipt of a higher than warranted security classification level. Following his August 2015 plea agreement, Mr. Ray was held as a presentenced prisoner at the Bath County Jail (New York) for 13 months. During this time, he was housed in the maximum-security section of the prison. In October 2016 he was transferred to “Youngstown, PA” and again housed in maximum security and “with greatly restricted privileges”. (Id. at 8.) In November 2015, Mr. Ray was transferred to USP Allenwood Low, “inconsistent with [his] designation would have demanded, at which [he] served 13 months as a result of this mistaken designation, the conditions were substantially inferior of those enjoy[ed] at a Prison Camp.” (Id.) He spent 40 days in “solitary confinement” there due to staff's “failure to protect [his] safety.” (Id.)

         After the BOP “recognized the miss designation (sic) imposed” on Petitioner, the BOP sent him to MDC Brooklyn, an even less desirable facility than a “regular camp.” (Id.) While at MDC Brooklyn, in November 2017, Mr. Ray had institutional safety concerns that he shared with BOP staff. (Id. at 9.) During this meeting BOP staff recruited Mr. Ray as a confidential informant to identify and locate inmates with cell phones inside the institution. Mr. Ray had five jobs “throughout MDC [Brooklyn] with almost access [to] everywhere.” (Id.) The information he provided to BOP officials led to the discovery 15 cell phones and the 11 arrests of individuals. (Id.)

         In April 2018, an inmate who was arrested for possession of a cell phone based on Mr. Ray's information told Mr. Ray he had concerns for his safety. Mr. Ray notified MDC Brooklyn staff. Staff's initial attempt to secure a transfer for Mr. Ray was denied. In June 2018, after again being confronted and threatened by other inmates, Mr. Ray went to MDC staff. (Id. at 13.) Staff advised Mr. Ray they were “getting [him] out of here” and placed him in protective custody for a threat assessment/transfer. (Id.) At the conclusion of the investigation, Mr. Ray was ordered to return to general population. Mr. Ray, following the instructions of the Warden, refused to return to general population. Mr. Ray remained in solitary confinement for more than 260 days. During that time, he became depressed and received medical and mental health treatment from MDC Brooklyn staff. (Id. at 19.)

         In February 2019, MDC Brooklyn staff advised Mr. Ray he was to be transferred to “Schuylkill Camp”. (Id. at 23.) On February 20, 2019, Mr. Ray was temporarily transferred to USP-Canaan. Five days later he was transferred to the Schuylkill Camp. (Id. at 24.) At Schuylkill he received “a great job” and continued to receive medical care. (Id.) Mr. Ray believes due to the “mishandling of his custody” status as well as his “courage and conduct in providing assistance to the Government, ” the only remedy is his “immediate and irrevocable release.” (Id. at 25.)

         III. Discussion

         A. Mr. Ray's ...


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