United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
CHRISTOPHER W. ODEN, #07960-087, Petitioner,
WILLIAM TRUE, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. Yandle United States District Judge
Christopher Oden is incarcerated at the United States
Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois (“Marion”). He
filed this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2241 to challenge the length of his upcoming placement in a
Residential Reentry Center (“RRC”) and the
location of that placement. (Doc. 1). Oden alleges the Bureau of
Prisons (“BOP”) denied his placement request
without considering the factors set forth under 18 U.S.C.
§ 3621(b)(1) through (5) and in violation of the First
Step Act of 2018 (“FSA”).
response, Respondent notes that Oden's RRC time has been
increased and will begin in December 2019 rather than in
January 2020 as originally planned. (Doc. 9, p. 3). Further,
Oden's release date was accelerated to March 13, 2020
after his sentence was recalculated pursuant to the First
Step Act. Id. Respondent argues that a § 2241
petition is not a proper vehicle for a prisoner to challenge
his RRC placement. (Doc. 9, pp. 3-5). Alternatively,
Respondent asserts that Oden is not entitled to relief even
if his Petition is proper under § 2241, and that he
failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to the
location of his RRC placement. (Doc. 9, pp. 5-8). Oden has
filed a Reply, disputing several factual issues and
Respondent's arguments. (Doc. 13). This matter is ripe
for resolution. For the following reasons, the Habeas
Petition will be DENIED.
Facts and Procedural History
pled guilty in 2012 to one count of possession of child
pornography in the Northern District of West Virginia and was
sentenced to 120 months' imprisonment. United States
v. Oden, Case No. 11-cr-056 (N.D. W.Va. Feb. 8, 2012,
Doc. 45). At the time Oden submitted his § 2241 Petition
for filing (August 28, 2019), he had been approved for RRC
placement of “one month and two weeks.” (Doc. 1,
pp. 1, 7). He had also been granted 70 days of good conduct
credit against his sentence. (Doc. 1, p. 2; Doc. 9, p. 2;
Doc. 9-1, p. 2). Prison officials had earlier recommended
Oden for up to 120 days of RRC placement, which would have
begun on January 24, 2020, based on his anticipated release
date of May 22, 2020. (Doc. 9-1, p. 3; Doc. 9-2, p. 1). When
Oden's sentence was recalculated to account for the 70
days of good conduct credit, his new release date became
March 13, 2020, which shortened his RRC time to 50 days.
(Doc. 9, p. 3; Doc. 9-2, p. 3). Soon after Oden filed the
instant Petition, prison officials reviewed his RRC placement
and increased it to 94 days, to begin on December 11, 2019.
(Doc. 9, p. 3; Doc. 9-1, p. 3; Doc. 9-3).
RRC location will be in the Northern District of West
Virginia. (Doc. 9-1, p. 3). While Oden's home is in that
judicial district, he objects to the location of Clarksburg,
West Virginia, because it is over 3 hours away from the home
to which he plans to relocate. (Doc. 1, p. 6). He complains
that prison staff have refused to help him resubmit his
request for additional RRC time and consideration for RRC
placement in Winchester, Virginia or at Bethany House in
Martinsburg, West Virginia, which would be closer to his
petition seeking habeas corpus relief is appropriate under 28
U.S.C. § 2241 when a petitioner is challenging the fact
or duration of confinement, and if he seeks immediate or
speedier release. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S.
475, 490, (1973); Waletzki v. Keohane, 13 F.3d 1079,
1080 (7th Cir. 1994). Habeas relief may be granted where the
prisoner is in custody in violation of the Constitution or
laws or treaties of the United States. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241(c)(3). However, a civil rights action is the
proper vehicle for a challenge to the conditions of a
prisoner's confinement. Preiser, 411 U.S. at
499. See also Graham v. Broglin, 922 F.2d 379, 381
(7th Cir. 1995) (habeas corpus is the vehicle to seek a
“quantum change in the level of custody” such as
release on parole, but a prisoner “seeking a different
program or location or environment . . . is challenging the
conditions rather than the fact of his confinement” and
must do so under civil rights law). On its face, a transfer
from a federal prison to a halfway house/RRC would appear to
constitute a “quantum change in the level of custody,
” that would be cognizable in a habeas corpus action,
but courts have reached different conclusions on this
Respondent points out, in some cases, this district court has
concluded that a § 2241 petition is not the proper
vehicle to raise a claim regarding RRC placement, while
permitting such a claim to proceed in others. (Doc. 9, p.
3-5); see Vasquez v. Cross, No. 13-cv-811-CJP, 2014
WL 2198826 (S.D. Ill. May 27, 2014) (claim that BOP did not
properly consider transfer to RRC did not show that custody
was unlawful or that he had a right to release, thus habeas
relief was unavailable); Stokes v. Cross, No.
13-cv-998-CJP, 2014 WL 503934 (S.D. Ill. Feb. 7, 2014) (court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction under § 2241, and
further finding claim fails on the merits); Feazell v.
Sherrod, No. 10-cv-901-GPM, 2010 WL 5174355 (S.D.
Ill.Dec. 16, 2010) (petition was proper under § 2241,
but denying on the merits). Similar disagreement is apparent
in decisions from other district courts within this Circuit.
See, e.g., Perry v. Krueger, No.
15-cv-1298, 2015 WL 6500915 (C.D. Ill. Oct. 27, 2015) (even
if petition is proper under § 2241, it fails on the
merits); Moody v. Rios, No. 13-cv-1034, 2013 WL
5236747 (C.D. Ill. Sept 17, 2013) (denying petition on the
merits without questioning whether § 2241 was the proper
vehicle); Woods v. Wilson, No. 09-cv-0749, 2009 WL
2579241 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 19, 2009) (petition was properly
brought under § 2241 but failed on the merits).
addressing a habeas petition that alleged medical
mistreatment and sought, among other remedies, release to the
community to obtain treatment, the Seventh Circuit concluded
that because release was unavailable as a remedy for the
claimed wrongdoing, the petitioner's “challenge can
only concern the conditions of his confinement . . . not the
fact of his confinement. As such, he may not proceed with a
habeas petition.” Glaus v. Anderson, 408 F.3d
382, 388 (7th Cir. 2005). This language has been interpreted
to set a bright-line rule that if a habeas petitioner is not
seeking outright release, or if release is not available as a
remedy for his claims, then § 2241 is not the proper
vehicle to seek relief. See, e.g.,
Stokes v. Cross, 2014 WL 503934, at *2 (S.D. Ill.
Feb. 2014); Fryer v. Cross, No. 14-cv-78-DRH, 2014
WL 1632104 (S.D. Ill. Apr. 23, 2014); Davis v. United
States, No. 17-cv-294-DRH, 2017 WL 2214874 (S.D. Ill.
May 19, 2017).
Oden is not seeking immediate or earlier release from
custody. He does not challenge his release date of March 13,
2020, but instead argues that he should spend more of his
remaining custody time in an RRC rather than in prison and
claims that BOP officials did not properly evaluate his
application for additional RRC time. Under the test
articulated in Glaus, this amounts to a challenge
only to the location of Oden's custody, not to the fact
of being in custody, and therefore falls outside the realm of
available habeas corpus relief. Oden's claim is more
appropriately categorized as a challenge to the conditions of
his confinement, which “falls on the civil rights side
of the line.” Stokes, 2014 WL 503934, at *3;
see also Bush v. Pitzer, 133 F.3d 455, 456-57 (7th
Cir. 1997) (a § 2241 petitioner “must demonstrate
that the custody is unlawful, and not just that an
administrative official made a mistake in the implementation
of a statute or regulation”).
even assuming arguendo that Oden's claims are
cognizable under § 2241, his Petition fails on the
merits. He argues he should have been granted more RRC time
pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b). (Doc. 1, p. 5). This
statute delegates sole authority to the BOP to designate the
place of confinement for federal prisoners, including the
transfer of prisoners from one correctional facility to
another, and sets forth five factors for the BOP to consider
in making placement decisions: (1) the resources of the
facility contemplated; (2) the nature and circumstances of
the offense; (3) the history and characteristics of the
prisoner; (4) any statement by the court that imposed the
sentence concerning the purposes for the sentence of
imprisonment or recommending a particular type of facility;
and (5) any pertinent policy statement issued by the
Sentencing Commission. 18 U.S.C. §§ 3621(b)(1)-(5).
These factors also guide consideration of a prisoner's
placement in an RRC for the final portion of his or her
sentence, which may be as much as 12 months. 18 U.S.C. §
3624(c); see also 28 C.F.R. §§
has broad discretion under these statutes to make placement
decisions, including setting the length of time for an
inmate's assignment to an RRC. See Davis, 2017
WL 2214874, at *2 (collecting cases); Perry v.
Krueger, 2015 WL 6500915, at *2. See also Taylor v.
Lariva, 638 Fed.Appx. 539, 541 (7th Cir. 2016) (court
reviews BOP's prison placement decisions for abuse of
discretion). In Oden's case, the record indicates that
consideration was given to the statutory factors when the
decision was made to place him in an RRC for the original 120
days, as well as to move up the date of his RRC placement to
increase his RRC time from 50 to 94 days after his sentence
was shortened by the additional good conduct credit. (Docs.
9-1; 9-6 pp. 1, 7).
Court has no authority to independently review the statutory
factors and reach its own conclusion as to the appropriate
RRC placement for a prisoner. See Davis, 2017 WL
2214874, at *2. Instead, the Court must defer to the
BOP's discretionary decision unless the record shows that
the decision was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of
discretion, or contrary to the requirements of the statute.
See Davis, 2017 WL 2214874, at ...