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Stokes v. Cross

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 7, 2014

JOSEPH LAMONT STOKES, Petitioner,
v.
JAMES N. CROSS, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

CLIFFORD J. PROUD, Magistrate Judge.

Petitioner Joseph Lamont Stokes, federal inmate incarcerated at FCI-Greenville, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 challenging the Federal Bureau of Prisons' alleged failure to properly address his request for a transfer to the Chicago Residential Re-entry Center. For the reasons set forth below, the Petition is denied.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Joseph Stokes was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and sentenced on April 19, 2001 to a term of 240 months (Doc. 4). His projected release date is October 28, 2017 (Doc. 14-1, p. 4). At all times relevant to this matter, Stokes had a security designation of "medium" and a custody classification of "in, " (Doc. 14-1, p. 4), which is the second highest custody level within the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"). U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, BOP PROGRAM STATEMENT NO. 5100.08, ch. 2, p. 2(2006). He was designated to FCI-Greenville, a facility that is equipped to provide a level of security and staff supervision commensurate with his custody level ( See Doc. 14-1, p. 24).

In early April 2013, Stokes requested a transfer to the Chicago Residential Reentry Center ("the Chicago RRC") (Doc. 14-1, p. 25). His case manager explained that RRC placement would not be discussed until approximately 17 months before his release date (Doc. 14-1, p. 25). Dissatisfied with that answer, Stokes filed a request for an administrative remedy (BP-9) with the warden of FCI-Greenville, James Cross (Doc. 1-2, p. 2). Warden Cross denied Stokes' request for an immediate transfer to the Chicago RRC, and told Stokes that his transfer request would be considered at his next scheduled program review (Doc. 1-2, p. 1; Doc. 14-1, p. 25).

Stokes filed an appeal with the BOP's Regional Director (BP-10) (Doc. 14-1, p. 24). The Regional Director denied Stokes's appeal and stated, in part

Currently, you are scored as a 16-point medium security level inmate. You are appropriately designated to the Federal Correctional Institution, Greenville, Illinois, a medium security facility commensurate with your security level. A transfer to an RRC is not warranted at this time. The RRCs are halfway houses and are only suitable to house inmates that are in transition from the institution to the community.

(Doc. 14-1, p. 24). The Regional Director also reiterated that Stokes would be evaluated for RRC placement prior to his release from prison (Doc. 14-1, p. 24).

Stokes filed another appeal, this time with the BOP's Office of General Counsel (BP-11) (Doc. 1-2, p. 4). On July 1, 2013, Stokes' appeal was rejected and returned to him because it failed to comply with procedural requirements ( See Doc. 1-2, p. 5). Stokes was instructed that he had 15 days to resubmit his appeal to the General Counsel in proper form (Doc. 1-2, p. 5). Stokes received the Notice of Rejection on July 10, 2013 (Doc. 1-2, p. 5). According to Stokes, he resubmitted his appeal that same day (Doc. 1-2, p. 6), and when he did not receive a response from the General Counsel by the deadline, he filed the instant petition (Doc. 1). BOP records indicate, however, that the Office of General Counsel never received Stokes's amended appeal ( See Doc. 14-1, pp. 21-23).

DISCUSSION

In his habeas petition, Stokes alleges that his request for an immediate transfer to an RRC was denied after the BOP misapplied the Second Chance Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c), when he was not seeking pre-release placement in an RRC. Instead, according to him, he was seeking a routine transfer to an RRC under 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b), and therefore he was entitled to have his transfer request assessed on an individualized basis using the factors set forth in that statute. He claims the BOP failed to perform an individualized assessment using the requisite factors, and the BOP's actions were contrary to 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b) and violated his due process rights (Doc. 1; Doc. 10). Importantly, Stokes is only challenging the manner in which the BOP denied his transfer request (Doc. 10). He is not challenging the policy or the rules behind the BOP's decision ( See Doc. 10).

The Court is dubious regarding its jurisdiction to entertain this petition and whether a habeas action is the appropriate method for Stokes to bring his claim. However, even if Stokes' claim was properly brought, and giving Stokes the benefit of the doubt regarding his efforts to exhaust his administrative remedies, [2] his petition would still be denied because his claim is meritless.

A. The Court Lacks Subject Matter Jurisdiction Over the Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241

While the parties have not addressed the issue of the Court's jurisdiction over the action, the Court must do so as a threshold matter. Bunn v. Conley, 309 F.3d 1002, 1006-07 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973) (dismissing § 1983 claims ...


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