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Beard v. Walton

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 29, 2017

LIONEL BEARD, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, B. TRUE Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HERNDON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Lionel Beard (Petitioner) filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging his payment structure under the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (IFRP). (Doc. 1). Based on the following, the § 2241 petition is DENIED.

         Relevant Facts and Procedural History

         In 2006, a jury in the Western District of Michigan found Petitioner guilty of multiple counts related involvement in conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. United States v. Beard, No. 05-cr-20 (W.D. Mich.), Doc. 424. The District Court sentenced Petitioner to 120 months incarceration for being a felon in possession of a firearm; 420 months for engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise; and 240 months for tampering with a witness-all to be served concurrently followed by five years of supervised release; in addition to payment of $500 special assessment and fine of $25, 000. (Doc. 553 of criminal case). The Court specified at the sentencing hearing that Petitioner “pay a fine in the amount of $25, 000, to be paid at the rate of $50 per quarter while he is on the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program participation, or $50 per month while he's on UNICOR earnings.”[1] (Doc. 1-1, p. 7). The written judgment provides, “Defendant shall pay minimum quarterly installments of $50.00, based on IFRP participation or minimum monthly installments of $50.00, based on UNICOR earnings, whichever is greater. . .” (Doc. 553, p. 7 of criminal case) (emphasis added). Petitioner is currently incarcerated at USP Marion.

         Grounds for Habeas Relief

         Petitioner voluntarily enrolled in the IFRP, a program where “staff members from the Bureau of Prisons assist inmates in developing plans to meet their financial obligations.” United States v. Boyd, 608 F.3d 331, 333 (7th Cir. 2010). Participation is voluntary, but inmates who refuse to take part lose privileges identified in 28 C.F.R. § 545.11(d), including “participating in the UNICOR prison job training program, furloughs, and outside work details, and having higher commissary spending limits, access to higher-status housing, and access to community-based programs.” Id.

         Petitioner initially made payments of $50 per quarter under the program, (Doc. 11, Ex. C), but in August 2013, Petitioner's case manager determined he should pay $100 per month, (Doc. 1-1, p. 1). Petitioner refused to render the increased payments, (Doc. 1-1, p. 1), and the BOP's disciplinary committee found Petitioner in violation of Code 306 (Refusing a Program Assignment), (Doc. 18, p. 2). Consequentially, Petitioner's phone and commissary privileges were suspended for thirty days, and he was removed from privileged housing. (Doc. 22, pp. 1-2). The disciplinary committee subsequently expunged the incident from Petitioner's record and restored his privileges. (Doc. 22, pp. 1-2).

         Petitioner now asserts his judgment and sentence prohibit the BOP from collecting payments in excess of $50 per month. He requests the Court limit his BOP payments to $50 per month and review all IFRP Code 306 violations at USP Marion. (Doc. 22, p. 3).

         Analysis

         Petitioner's first argument is two-fold. He asserts the District Judge's oral pronouncement, ordering Petitioner to pay “$50 per quarter, ” trumps the written judgment, which provides Petitioner shall pay “minimum quarterly installments of $50.” He then contends the pronouncement prohibits the BOP from demanding more than $50 from Petitioner per month through the IFRP.

         It is unclear from the pleadings whether Petitioner is currently participating in the IFRP and therefore presents a live case or controversy for this Court to adjudicate. Respondent states in its last motion that Petitioner refused to remit $100 per month but continued to participate in the IFRP by paying smaller amounts. (Doc. 18, p. 3 n.1). The incident report and Petitioner's filings, however, indicate he was effectively unenrolled from the program after refusing to agree to the higher payments. Regardless of the circumstances, Petitioner's claim fails on the merits.

         The District Judge who sentenced Petitioner structured Petitioner's payment schedule under the IFRP: “[Petitioner] shall pay a fine in the amount of $25, 000, to be paid at the rate of $50 per quarter while he is on the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program participation, or $50 per month while he's on UNICOR earnings.” (Doc. 1-1, pp. 13-14). The judge's imposition into the BOP's administration of the IFRP is inconsistent with the Seventh Circuit's interpretation of the judiciary's role in the program.

         The Seventh Circuit has confirmed that an inmate's participation in the IFRP is voluntary. Boyd, 608 F.3d at 334. While an inmate may lose certain privileges by not participating in the program, neither the BOP nor the District Court can compel participation. Id. at 335. The Seventh Circuit has further explained:

Because a prisoner's earnings while in custody depend on the Bureau of Prisons, as well as the prisoner's co-operation with its programs, it is not clear what payment schedule a court could set if it wanted. . . Prison earnings and other transactions concerning prison trust accounts are so completely within the Bureau of Prisons' control ...

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