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BARRON v. SANDERS

October 13, 2005.

EMUIL WENDELL BARRON REG. #24270-001, Petitioner,
v.
LINDA SANDERS, Warden, FCI, Forrest City, AR Respondent.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JERRY CAVANEAU, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Emuil Wendell Barron, an inmate in the Federal Correctional Institution in Forrest City, Arkansas, brings this 28 U.S.C. § 2241 petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging the policy of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) regarding when a federal prisoner is eligible for transfer to a community corrections center (CCC) (docket entry #1). Respondent has filed a response (docket entry #3), and Petitioner has replied (docket entry #4). For the reasons that follow, the petition will be GRANTED.

I.

  Background

  According to Petitioner, he received a thirty-month sentence of imprisonment in March 31, 2004, following his convictions for dealing in firearms without a license, selling firearms to a convicted felon, and interstate transfer of a firearm. He says he has been informed by the BOP that, based on its interpretation of the applicable statutes, he is eligible to spend only the last ten percent of his sentence in a CCC*fn1 (117 days) and thus will not become eligible for transfer to a CCC until April 14, 2006. Petitioner argues that the BOP's interpretation is illegal and that its application to him violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution. He contends that he is entitled to be considered for six months of CCC placement, having become eligible on July 6, 2005, and asks the Court to declare the current BOP policy invalid, bar retrospective application of the policy to him, and direct the BOP to consider him for CCC placement for the final six months of his sentence.

  II.

  Analysis

  A. Statutory Framework.

  Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b), the BOP is authorized to "designate the place of [a federal] prisoner's imprisonment," which may be "any available penal or correctional facility that meets minimum standards of health and habitability established by the [BOP] . . . [and] that the [BOP] determines to be appropriate and suitable." The statute further provides that the BOP "may at any time . . . direct the transfer of a prisoner from one penal or correctional facility to another." The statute lists the following factors for the BOP to consider in making an initial housing designation or transfer determination: (1) the resources of the facility, (2) the nature and circumstances of the prisoner's offense, (3) the prisoner's history and characteristics, (4) any relevant statements or recommendations by the sentencing court, and (5) any pertinent policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission. There is no contention here that a CCC does not constitute a "place of . . . imprisonment" or a "penal or correctional facility." See Elwood v. Jeter, 386 F.3d 842, 846 & n. 2 (8th Cir. 2004) (stating that government had conceded that a CCC is a place of imprisonment and a penal or correctional facility).

  The relevant provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c) state:
Pre-release custody. — The [BOP] shall, to the extent practicable, assure that a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment spends a reasonable part, not to exceed six months, of the last 10 per centum of the term to be served under conditions that will afford the prisoner a reasonable opportunity to adjust to and prepare for the prisoner's re-entry into the community. The authority provided by this subsection may be used to place a prisoner in home confinement.
B. BOP's December 2002 Policy.
  For a number of years, the BOP construed its authority under § 3621(b) and § 3624(c) as authorizing the regular transfer of inmates from prison to community confinement for the last six months of their sentences, even if the six-month period exceeded ten percent of their sentences. See BOP Program Statement 7310.04 ¶ 5.*fn2

  On December 13, 2002, the Office of Legal Counsel for the United States Department of Justice (OLC) issued a memorandum opinion finding that this practice was unlawful. OLC Memo. Op. for Dep. Atty. Gen., Bureau of Prisons Practice of Placing in Community Confinement Certain Offenders Who Have Received Sentences of Imprisonment, 2002 WL 31940146 (Dec. 13, 2002). The opinion stated that, when a prisoner has received a sentence of imprisonment, the BOP's authority to transfer him to a non-prison site is limited to a period "not to exceed six months, of the last 10 percentum of the term to be served," pursuant to § 3624(c)'s language. The United States Attorney General adopted the OLC's position*fn3 and, in response, the BOP altered its policies regarding pre-release community confinement designation, limiting the duration to the lesser of six months or ten percent of a prisoner's sentence. See BOP Memo. for Chief Executive Officers (Dec. 20, 2002)*fn4 (hereinafter referred to as the "December 2002 Policy").

  The BOP's December 2002 Policy generated a multitude of prisoner petitions and, consequently, a number of conflicting District Court decisions on its validity. The issue was settled in the Eighth Circuit by the ruling in Elwood v. Jeter, 386 F.3d 842 (8th Cir. 2004), which reversed a decision arising out of this District and concluded that the December 2002 Policy was based on an erroneous interpretation of § 3621(b) and § 3624(c). In Elwood, the Eighth Circuit held that the correct interpretation of the statutes was as follows. First, § 3621(b) gives the BOP discretion to transfer prisoners to CCCs at any time during their incarceration. Second, § 3624(c) bestows an affirmative duty on the BOP to ensure that each prisoner spends a reasonable part of the last ten percent of his sentence under pre-release conditions that will facilitate a smooth re-entry into the community. Third, the BOP's duty under § 3624(c) is qualified in that placement under pre-release conditions is mandated only "to the extent practicable," and the duty "shall not extend beyond the last six months of the prisoner's sentence." Id. at 846-47.

 
The Eighth Circuit further stated: We emphasize . . . that 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c) does not require placement in a CCC. It only obligates the BOP to facilitate the prisoner's transition from the prison system. Under § 3621(b), the BOP may place a prisoner in a CCC for six months, or more. Under § 3624(c) the BOP must formulate a plan of pre-release conditions. This plan may include CCC placement, home confinement, drug or alcohol treatment, or any other plan that meets the obligation of a plan that addresses the prisoner's re-entry into the community. Likewise, the obligation is qualified by the phrase "to the extent practicable." Security concerns or space limitations in a CCC near the prisoner's home are among the factors that may make it impractical to transfer a prisoner to a CCC for all or even part of the transition period.
Id. at 847.
  Upon remand, the District Court entered an order directing that:
Pursuant to the Eighth Circuit's opinion . . ., Respondent shall: (a) consider, in good faith, transferring Petitioner to a CCC for the last six months of his sentence in accordance with the factors taken into account by the BOP prior to its adoption of the December 2002 policy; and (b) place Petitioner in conditions that will afford him a reasonable opportunity to adjust to and prepare for his reentry into the community during a reasonable part of the last ten percent of his term, to the extent practicable.[fn.3: This duty shall not extend beyond the last six months of Petitioner's sentence.]
Elwood v. Jeter, No. 2:03cv00202, docket entry #39 at 3-4 (E.D. Ark. Jan. 3, 2005). The petitioner ...

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