United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Fashira Crawford, Pro Se, No. 08095-030, FCI
David W. Fuller and Gregory G. Brooker, Esqs., United States Attorney's Office, for Respondent.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
STEVEN E. RAU, Magistrate Judge.
The above-captioned case comes before the undersigned on Petitioner Fashira Crawford's ("Crawford") Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 ("Pet.") [Doc. No.1]. This matter has been referred for the resolution of pretrial matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C) and District of Minnesota Local Rule 72.1. For the reasons stated below, the Court recommends denying the Petition and dismissing the action.
Currently Crawford is an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institute in Waseca, Minnesota ("FCI Waseca"), where she is serving a 120-month sentence that will be followed with five years of supervised release. (Decl. of Julie Groteboer, "Groteboer Decl.") [Doc. No. 6 ¶¶ 3-4]. Judge Jarvey of the Southern District of Iowa sentenced Crawford after she was convicted of "Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine Base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(A) and 846." ( Id. ¶ 4). Crawford's projected release date, taking into account good conduct time ("GCT"), is September 12, 2014. ( Id. ¶ 5).
On April 2, 2013, Crawford's Case Manager and Unit Manager ("Unit staff") reviewed her application for pre-release placement in a Residential Reentry Center ("RRC") under the five factors of the Second Chance Act ("SCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b). ( Id. ¶ 6). In making their RRC determination, they reviewed: the resources available at the RRC facilities, the nature of Crawford's charges and pertinent policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission, as well as Judge Jarvey's failure to recommend RRC placement. ( Id. ¶¶ 6-7). The Unit staff also considered Crawford's history and characteristics, including her participation in educational and vocational programs, completion of her General Educational Development ("GED"), participation in the Drug Education Program ("DEP") and the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program ("IFRP"), and her good work performance reviews. ( Id. ¶ 8). In addition, her disciplinary history and relevant prior criminal history, including three incidents that were classified as moderate security level, her family support, life skills, and financial and community resources were contemplated. ( Id. ). Unit staff also determined that Crawford had not secured residence or employment and thus was not suited for direct home confinement and that she "did not present any extraordinary information to support an extended RRC placement." ( Id. ). After their review, Unit staff recommended a 151- to 180-day (a five to six month) RRC placement which the Unit staff deemed "sufficient to provide the greatest likelihood of successful reintegration into the community." ( Id. ¶ 9). On April 2, 2013, Crawford was informed of the recommendation. ( Id. ).
On May 13, 2013, Crawford submitted to Warden Nicklin a Request for Administrative Remedy ("BP-9"), in which she requested an additional sixty days of RRC placement and that an individualized assessment be performed under 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b) and § 3624(c). ( Id. ¶ 11). Warden Nicklin denied Crawford's request on May 31, 2013, and explained that Crawford had been evaluated pursuant to the factors listed in the SCA. ( Id. ).
Crawford filed a Regional Administrative Remedy Appeal requesting additional RRC placement on June 21, 2013. ( Id. ¶ 12). The Region denied this request on June 27, 2013, after it was determined that Unit staff properly conducted a review under the SCA. ( Id. ). A Supervision Release Plan was prepared on September 23, 2013, where a 151- to 180-day RRC placement was again recommended by Unit staff. ( Id. ¶ 10); (Supervision Release Plan/Institutional Referral, "Supervision Release Plan, " Attach. D., Attached to Groteboer Decl.) [Doc. No. 10-1]. The Supervision Release Plan will be reviewed by the Warden and then will be submitted to the Community Corrections Manager who will make the ultimate RRC placement decision. (Groteboer Decl. ¶ 10).
Crawford filed her Petition on September 5, 2013, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. See (Pet.). In her Petition, Crawford requests that the Court issue a writ of habeas corpus directing Warden Nicklin to transfer or release her to an RRC immediately "by granting a 12[-]month placement according to the applicable law." ( Id. at 1). Crawford argues that she is seeking additional RRC placement to acquire additional reentry skills to help her reintegrate into society. ( Id. at 3).
Crawford advances multiple arguments in her Petition. First, she argues that the United States Bureau of Prisons's ("BOP") determination of eligibility for RRC placements longer than six months is arbitrary and capricious and therefore her request for additional RRC placement has not been considered in good faith by the FCI Waseca staff. ( Id. at 1, 4-6). Second, Crawford argues that she is entitled to a twelve-month RRC placement and that the BOP is acting contrary to applicable law because its practice is to only place inmates in an RRC for up to six months. ( Id. at 5-6). Third, Crawford argues that Warden Nicklin failed to act in good faith when considering her request for additional RRC placement because the FCI Waseca staff did not "consider her marketable job skills, housing needs or her detrimental social status as a felon' in refusing to provide her with 12 months [of RRC] placement." ( Id. at 6).
"Writs of habeas corpus may be granted by the Supreme Court, any justice thereof, the district courts and any circuit judge within their respective jurisdictions." 28 U.S.C. § 2241(a). But writs of habeas corpus "shall not extend to a prisoner unless... he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3).
A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
"A prisoner may bring a habeas action challenging the BOP's execution of his sentence only if he first presents his claim to the BOP." Mathena v. United States, 577 F.3d 943, 946 (8th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). The administrative remedy procedure at the BOP is a three-tiered process. See 28 C.F.R. § 542.13-542.15. The first stage is an informal resolution where the prisoner presents his or her claims to the staff, and if unsuccessful, then files a formal grievance with the Warden. § 542.13-14. An inmate that is still dissatisfied may submit an appeal to the Regional Director. § 542.15. Finally, if the inmate is still dissatisfied, the inmate can appeal to the General Counsel on a form designed for Central Office Appeals. Id. An inmate's administrative remedies have been exhausted when the inmate either: (1) receives a response from the Central Office or (2) the Central Office exceeds its time to reply, including any extensions for reply that have been granted. §§ 542.15, 542.18.
Crawford asks the Court to waive the exhaustion requirement as she failed to appeal to the Central Office. (Pet. at 2-3); see (Nicklin's Response to Pet., "Nicklin's Resp.") [Doc. No. 5 at 8-10]. Crawford alleges that exhausting her administrative remedies would prejudice her chance at timely relief from the Court. (Pet. at 2-3). Warden Nicklin argues that Crawford's Petition should be dismissed because of her failure to exhaust her administrative remedies because any potential prejudice to Crawford's ability to obtain timely relief from the Court was caused by Crawford's own delays. (Nicklin's Resp. at 9). Warden Nicklin highlights that Crawford waited over a month after being informed of her RRC recommendation on April 2, 2013, to file her administrative remedy request at the institutional level and then waited over two months after learning that she was denied at the Regional level before filing the instant Petition, in lieu of an appeal to the Central Office. ( Id. ). Further, Warden Nicklin argues if Crawford is allowed to circumvent the administrative remedies procedure, it will encourage other inmates to engage in the same behavior. ( Id. at 9-10).
The Court agrees that Crawford has not fully exhausted her administrative remedies by failing to appeal to the Central Office. The Court, however, considers the merits of Crawford's Petition in the interest of providing Crawford with an adjudication on the merits. See Lueth v. Beach, 498 F.3d 795, 797 n.3 (8th Cir. 2007) ("[O]ur jurisdiction to decide this case is not affected by [petitioner's] alleged failure to exhaust his administrative remedies because the exhaustion prerequisite for filing a 28 U.S.C. § 2241 petition is judicially created, not jurisdictional."); United States v. Dico, Inc., 136 F.3d 572, 576 (8th Cir. 1998) ("The exhaustion requirement is designed to [protect] administrative agency authority and [promote] judicial efficiency, ' and those are the policies a court must keep in mind in making the waiver decision.") (internal citations omitted). The Court, therefore, does not decide whether Crawford's delay contributed to her failure to exhaust her administrative remedies, instead the Court waives the exhaustion requirement given the particular timing circumstances in this case.
B. RRC Placement Determination
1. Applicable Legal and Regulatory Framework
Federal law authorizes the BOP to provide appropriate housing for federal inmates and federal law gives the BOP discretion in satisfying the responsibility. See 18 U.S.C. § 3621. The applicable statute provides:
(b) Place of imprisonment.-The Bureau of Prisons shall designate the place of the prisoner's imprisonment. The Bureau may designate any available penal or correctional facility that meets minimum standards of health and habitability established by the Bureau, whether maintained by the Federal Government or otherwise and whether within or without the judicial district in which ...