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Harris v. Forster

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 20, 2016

ELIZABETH HARRIS, Petitioner,
v.
SHAI FORSTER, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          David R. Herndon, United States District Judge.

         Elizabeth Harris filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §2241 challenging her expulsion from the Residential Drug Abuse Program (“RDAP”) while she was an inmate in the Bureau of Prisons. (Doc. 1).

         This matter is now before the Court on respondent's Motion to Dismiss Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus as Moot. (Doc. 18). Petitioner has not filed a response to the motion.

         Relevant Facts and Procedural History

         In July 2006, Harris was sentenced in the Eastern District of Missouri to 130 months imprisonment and 5 years supervised release for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). At the time she filed her habeas petition, she was an inmate in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.

         While in the BOP, Harris was accepted into the RDAP. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §3621(e)(2)(B), the BOP “may” reduce an inmate's term of incarceration by up to 12 months after successful completion of an RDAP. Harris did not successfully complete the program; she was expelled from the RDAP on July 7, 2013. See, Doc. 15, Ex. 3.

         According to the motion to dismiss, petitioner was released from the BOP on June 18, 2015. Respondent argues that the petition is moot because, even if petitioner prevailed and the Court were to order her term of imprisonment reduced, that ruling would have no tangible benefit to petitioner.

         Petitioner has not informed the Court of her release from prison or of her current address.

         Analysis

         The Court agrees that the petition is moot, but for a slightly different reason than the one advanced by respondent.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c), a writ of habeas corpus “shall not extend to a prisoner” unless she is “in custody.” The “in custody” requirement is satisfied if the petitioner was in custody at the time of the filing of the petition. Spencer v. Kemna, 118 S.Ct. 978, 983 (1998).

         The fact that petitioner has been released from prison, standing alone, does not mean that the petition is moot. Respondent's argument ignores the fact that, upon her release from the BOP, petitioner began serving a 5 year term of supervised release. If petitioner were entitled to a reduction in her prison term, she would be entitled to have her term of supervised release end earlier to reflect the earlier release date and resulting in an earlier start of her period of supervised release. See, White v. Indiana Parole Board, 266 F.3d 759, 763 (7th Cir. 2001).

         While release from physical custody does not necessarily render the petition moot, the petition must still present a “case or controversy” under Article III, §2 of the Constitution. That is, the petitioner “must have suffered, or be threatened with, an actual injury traceable to the [respondent] and likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.” Spencer, 118 S.Ct. at 983 (internal citation omitted).

         Here, the petition no longer presents a “case or controversy.” Petitioner cannot show that she is legally entitled to a reduction in her prison term. She argued in her petition that she was expelled from the RDAP for impermissible reasons based on her age, race and physical condition. However, successful completion of the program would entitle her only to be considered for early release. Whether to grant early release is a matter within the discretion of the BOP. “When an eligible prisoner successfully completes drug treatment, the Bureau thus has the authority, but not ...


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