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Carter v. Stewart

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 29, 2019

SHERWIN CARTER, Petitioner
v.
TIMOTHY S. STEWART, Respondent

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In the above-captioned Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, Petitioner asserts that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) improperly denied him eligibility for early release under 18 U.S.C. § 3621(e) following his completion of a residential substance abuse treatment program. ECF No. 1 at 2, 6, 9-11.

         Petitioner acknowledges that the BOP came to this decision because Petitioner's Presentence Investigation Report ''recommended a 2 level Special Offence Characteristic Enhancement for possession of weapons which was adopted by the Court at sentencing" and the BOP concluded "that this enhancement makes him ineligible for relief under current federal regulations and Bureau of Prisons Program Statement 5331.02, and 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3621(e)." Id. at 9. Further, Petitioner acknowledges that under 28 C.F.R. § 550.55, [1] the regulation implementing the program established by 18 U.S.C. § 3621(e), inmates convicted of an "offense that involved the carrying, possession, or use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon or explosives (including any explosive material or explosive device)" are categorically excluded from eligibility for early release under this program. § 550.55(b)(5)(ii); ECF No. 1 at 9. Petitioner does not dispute that he was provided with an explanation of the basis of denying his request for early release under 18 U.S.G. § 3621(e), nor does he dispute that his two-level Sentencing Guidelines enhancement for possession of a firearm in connection with his offense falls within the ambit of 28 C.F.R. § 550.55(b)(5)(ii).

         Rather, Petitioner's argument for relief is grounded in his contention that the BOP failed to provide a rationale for its regulation (28 C.F.R. § 550.55). He contends that

The Bureau's failure to state a rational for its categorical exclusion rule[] renders the regulation arbitrary and capricious in violation of Section 706(2)(A) of the [Administrative Procedure Act]. Because the [administrative] record contains no rationale explaining the Bureau's decision to categorially exclude prisoners with convictions involving firearm(s) from eligibility for early release under § 3621(e), Petitioner has grounds for relief.

ECF No. 1 at 11. In support of his argument, Petitioner cites to two Ninth Circuit cases from the 1990s, which analyzed language from 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3). Id. at 10.

         Petitioner's argument is without merit, for reasons articulated nearly a decade ago in Coy v. Whitehead, No. DKC-09-0910, 2009 WL 2884763 (D. Md. Sept. 1, 2009), in which the Court explained:

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 amended 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b) to require the U.S. Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") to "make available appropriate substance abuse treatment for each prisoner the BOP determines has a treatable condition of substance addiction or abuse." It added a section providing for incentives for prisoners to participate in such a RDAP, including the possibility of an early release. Subsection 3621(e)(2)(B) provides that:
The period a prisoner convicted of a nonviolent offense remains in custody after successfully completing a [drug] treatment program may be reduced by the Bureau of Prisons, but such reduction may not be more than one year from the term the prisoner must otherwise serve.
In implementing this provision, the BOP initially adopted the statutory definition of "crime of violence" found under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3). Subsection 3621(e)(2)(B) was codified under 28 C.F.R. § 550.58. Section 550.58 specifies three prerequisites for early release eligibility: the inmate must have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment for a nonviolent offense; must have a substance abuse problem; and must successfully complete a residential drug abuse treatment program while incarcerated.
Revisions to § 550.58 omit any reference to § 924(c)(3). The regulation does not attempt to define a non-violent offense within the meaning of § 3621(e)(2)(B). Instead, the regulation was revised categorically to exclude certain inmates from early release. Section 550.58 states that:
An inmate who was sentenced to a term of imprisonment pursuant to the provisions of 18 U.S.C. Chapter 227, Subchapter D for a nonviolent offense, and who is determined to have a substance abuse problem, and successfully completes a residential drug abuse treatment program during his or her current commitment may be eligible, in accordance with paragraph (a) of this section, for early release by a period not to exceed 12 months.
(a) Additional early release criteria.
(1) As an exercise of the discretion vested in the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the following categories of inmates ...

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