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Walker v. Cross

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 27, 2014

JAMES N. CROSS, Respondent.


DAVID R. HERNDON, Chief District Judge.

Petitioner Jessica Walker, an inmate in the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 challenging the BOP's refusal to consider her for early release after she was expelled from the BOP's Residential Drug Abuse Program ("RDAP"). For the reasons set forth below, the Petition is denied.


A. The Residential Drug Abuse Program & Early Release

RDAP is an intensive drug treatment program for federal inmates with documented substance abuse problems. See 28 C.F.R. § 550.53; U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, BOP PROGRAM STATEMENT NO. 5330.11 ch. 2, p. 8 (2009). The RDAP consists of three components, 28 C.F.R. § 550.53, but only the first component-the unit-based component-is relevant to the instant matter. The unit-based component requires at least 500 hours of treatment over a period of at least six months. 28 C.F.R. § 550.53(a)(1); BOP PROGRAM STATEMENT NO. 5330.11 ch. 2, p. 8. Inmates participating in the program are housed in a unit set apart from the general prison population and reserved for drug treatment. 28 C.F.R. § 550.53(a)(1). An inmate can be removed from the RDAP for various reasons, including "disruptive behavior related to the program or unsatisfactory progress in treatment." 28 C.F.R. § 550.53(g). On the other hand, if an inmate "successfully complet[es]" the RDAP, they can receive a sentence reduction of up to 12 months. 18 U.S.C. § 3621(e)(2)(B); 28 C.F.R. §§ 550.54(a)(1)(iv), 550.55(a)(2).

A. Relevant Factual History

Jessica Walker was sentenced on June 30, 2010 to 60 months imprisonment for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine United States v. Walker, Case No. 09-cr-18 (E.D. Ark. Doc. 68). The sentencing court recommended that she participate in the RDAP while in prison ( Id. at Doc. 68), and she was placed at Greenville in order to do so. Before Walker began the program, the BOP determined that she would be eligible for a sentence reduction of up to one year if she successfully completed the RDAP (Doc. 10, p. 44). While Walker did not meet the minimum educational requirements for participation in the RDAP, she indicated that she nevertheless wanted to try to complete the program because she wanted the 12-month sentence reduction ( See Doc. 10, pp. 36, 37; Doc. 13, p. 2).

Walker began the RDAP in July 2011 ( See Doc. 10, p. 30). She had difficulty comprehending the RDAP lessons, Walker says, because of her learning disability. She requested a transfer to the Federal Medical Center in Carswell, Texas which has a "dual diagnosis" program for inmates suffering from both substance-abuse and mental-health problems ( See Doc. 1; Doc. 10, p. 15; Doc. 13, p. 2). Her transfer request was considered, but ultimately denied by FMC-Carswell because she did not qualify as a dual-diagnosis case and her cognitive limitations would be an issue no matter where she participated in the RDAP (Doc. 10, p. 5).

Walker was eventually expelled from the RDAP at Greenville in March 2012. Walker claims she was expelled because she could not comprehend the program. ( See Doc. 1; Doc. 13). Prison records reveal, however, that she was expelled due to behavioral issues-specifically, she was not committed to treatment, she exhibited unwillingness and irresponsibility in her efforts to make minimum progress, and she was resistant to direction (Doc. 10, p. 2). Walker's behavior impeded her own ability to progress, and also put the treatment and well-being of the other inmates in the RDAP at risk (Doc. 10, p. 2). At the time of her expulsion, Walker was in the RDAP for over eight months and had completed 560 hours of treatment (Doc. 1; Doc. 13).

B. Procedural History

In December 2012, Walker filed a civil rights action against prison administrators pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Walker v. Samuels, Case No. 12-cv-1296 (S.D. Ill. Doc. 1). In her Bivens suit, Walker claimed her equal protection rights were violated when prison officials refused to transfer her to FMC-Carswell because another inmate with the "same diagnosis" was transferred to the Texas facility ( Id. at Doc. 1). She also claimed that her Eighth Amendment rights were violated based on the embarrassment she suffered during her struggles in the Greenville program and the belittling comments made by guards about her learning disability ( Id. at Doc. 1). Walker sought monetary damages and a one-year sentence reduction for her participation in the RDAP ( Id. at Doc. 1).

This Court instructed Walker that her request for a one-year sentence reduction could not be granted in a civil rights action and must be brought in a habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 ( Id. at Doc. 7). Walker's Bivens suit was then dismissed for failure to state a claim ( Id. at Doc. 11). The dismissal was affirmed on appeal. Walker v. Samuels, Case No. 13-1749, 2013 WL 6225135, at *1 (7th Cir. Dec. 2, 2013).

As instructed, and after exhausting her administrative remedies ( See Doc. 1; Doc. 13), Walker filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant 28 U.S.C. § 2241 seeking a one-year ...

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