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Pontefract v. Walton

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 3, 2014

WARDEN WALTON, Respondent.


DAVID R. HERNDON, District Judge.

This case is before the Court for consideration of Petitioner Clyde Pontefract's writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 1). Pontefract, an inmate in the Federal Correctional Institution located in Marion, Illinois ("FCI-Marion"), brings this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to challenge the deduction of restitution payments from his trust fund account under the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program ("IFRP") (Doc. 1).

This matter is now before the Court for preliminary review of the habeas petition. Rule 4 of the Federal Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in United States District Courts provides that upon preliminary consideration by the district judge, "[i]f it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge shall make an order for its summary dismissal and cause the petitioner to be notified." Rule 1(b) of those Rules gives this Court the authority to apply the rules to other habeas corpus cases, such as this action brought pursuant to Section 2241. For the reasons set forth below, the petition shall be DISMISSED.

I Background

Pontefract pleaded guilty to production of child pornography on December 22, 2010. See United States v. Pontefract, No. 08-cr-00069 (W.D. La. 2008) ("criminal case") (Doc. 133). The United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana sentenced him to thirty years in prison, followed by supervised release for life (Doc. 175, criminal case). Pontefract's conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal on March 4, 2013 (Doc. 210, criminal case). See United States v. Pontefract, No. 12-30094 (5th Cir. 2013). His motion for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 was denied on October 20, 2014 (Doc. 226, criminal case).

Relevant to the instant petition, no fine was assessed at sentencing, but Pontefract was ordered to make restitution in the amount of $1, 385 (Doc. 175, p. 1, criminal case). According to his judgment, "[t]his amount shall be paid beginning thirty days after supervised release begins and shall be made in minimum monthly payments of at least $100 per month until paid in full" ( Id. ). He was also ordered to pay the standard assessment of $100 to the Crime Victim Fund immediately.

II. Habeas Petition

In his Section 2241 petition, Pontefract now raises several objections to his restitution payment plan under the IFRP. All of the objections pertain to the Federal Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP") method of computing his payment obligation. Pontefract claims that, by law, the first $75 per month that is deposited into his trust fund account, or $450 per six month period, should be excluded from the computation of his IFRP payments under 28 C.F.R. § 545.11 and BOP Policy Program Statements 5380.08(b) (hereinafter "ITS exclusion") (Doc. 1, p. 2). The ITS exclusion has not been used to compute his payment obligation. Pontefract consistently receives deposits of $75 per month or less. Even so, Warden Walton has authorized the withdrawal of $25 per quarter from his account on five separate occasions. This has allegedly resulted in an overpayment of $125, and Pontefract seeks reimbursement of this amount.

Pontefract goes on to argue that the ITS exclusion is not consistently used to compute IFRP payments for inmates at FCI-Marion (Doc. 1, p. 3). Some inmates, who are described as "special, " receive the "benefit" of the ITS exclusion, while others do not. Pontefract argues that this practice is discriminatory. He maintains that the ITS exclusion should be applied equally to all inmates.

Pontefract allegedly filed grievances to address this issue at all levels of the BOP (Doc. 1, p. 2). According to the petition, the grievances have been denied. The computation method has not changed for his IFRP payments.

Pontefract now seeks an order requiring: (1) application of the ITS exclusion to the computation of his IFRP payments; (2) a refund of $125 in overpayments; and (3) an explanation from the Court as to why inmates are required to follow grievance procedures when prison officials are not (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4).

III. Discussion

The IFRP is a "means of executing an inmate's sentence, and thus complaints about the BOP's administration of the program are cognizable under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. See Ihmoud v. Jett, 272 Fed.Appx. 525, *1 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing Matheny v. Morrison, 307 F.3d 709, 712 (8th Cir. 2002) (stating that challenges to IFRP collection mechanism concern execution of sentence and are therefore correctly framed as §2241 claims); McGhee v. Clark, 166 F.3d 884, 885-87 (7th Cir. 1999) (recognizing district court jurisdiction over claims arising from implementation of IFRP); Valona v. United States, 138 F.3d 693, 694 (7th Cir. 1998) (stating that motion seeking relief on grounds concerning execution of sentence but not validity of conviction falls under § 2241)). Although this Court has jurisdiction over Pontefract's petition, the Court cannot grant him the relief he seeks. In essence, Pontefract seeks credit for participating in the IFRP program, without the associated financial responsibilities.

To be clear, Pontefract is not disputing that portion of his sentence mandating payment of restitution. He merely takes issue with the method of collecting the monetary obligation. Pontefract contends that the ITS exclusion should be applied to him. Under it, the first $75 of his monthly deposits and the first $450 of all deposits would be exempt from IFRP ...

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