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ACKLIN v. SANDERS

November 10, 2005.

CORNELIUS ACKLIN REG. #20518-001, Petitioner,
v.
LINDA SANDERS, Warden, FCI, Forrest City, AR, Respondent.



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

PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION INSTRUCTIONS

The following recommended disposition has been sent to United States District Court Judge George Howard, Jr. Any party may serve and file written objections to this recommendation. Objections should be specific and should include the factual or legal basis for the objection. If the objection is to a factual finding, specifically identify that finding and the evidence that supports your objection. An original and two copies of your objections must be received in the office of the United States District Court Clerk no later than eleven (11) days from the date of the findings and recommendations. The copy will be furnished to the opposing party. Failure to file timely objections may result in waiver of the right to appeal questions of fact.

If you are objecting to the recommendation and also desire to submit new, different, or additional evidence, and to have a hearing for this purpose before the District Judge, you must, at the same time that you file your written objections, include the following:
1. Why the record made before the Magistrate Judge is inadequate.
2. Why the evidence proffered at the hearing before the District Judge (if such a hearing is granted) was not offered at the hearing before the Magistrate Judge.
3. The detail of any testimony desired to be introduced at the hearing before the District Judge in the form of an offer of proof, and a copy, or the original, of any documentary or other non-testimonial evidence desired to be introduced at the hearing before the District Judge.
From this submission, the District Judge will determine the necessity for an additional evidentiary hearing, either before the Magistrate Judge or before the District Judge.
  Mail your objections and "Statement of Necessity" to:
Clerk, United States District Court Eastern District of Arkansas 600 West Capitol Avenue, Suite 402 Little Rock, AR 72201-3325
RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION
  Cornelius Acklin, 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 #4), and Petitioner has replied (docket entries #5, #6). For the reasons that follow, the petition should be GRANTED.

  I.

  Background

  Petitioner states that he is serving a twenty-four-month sentence of imprisonment imposed on October 20, 2004, by the United States District Court, Northern District of Alabama. He says the BOP has informed him that he is eligible to spend less than sixty days at the end of his sentence in a CCC,*fn1 with a tentative CCC placement date of June 22, 2006. Petitioner says he has requested that he be permitted to spend at least the last six months of his sentence in a CCC, which has been denied pursuant to current BOP policy. He argues that the BOP's interpretation of the applicable statutes is erroneous, that its current policy was adopted in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, that the policy is contrary to decisions by the Eighth Circuit and this District Court, and that it violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution. He asks the Court to declare the current BOP policy invalid and to direct the BOP to transfer him to a CCC for at least the last 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, 386 F.3d at 846 & n. 2 (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 ...


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