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Maurello v. United States

June 30, 2000


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cooper, District Judge



This matter comes before the Court on a motion for partial summary judgment by plaintiff Arthur J. Maurello ("Maurello") against defendant United States of America (the "United States"), and a cross-motion for summary judgment by the United States against Maurello, both pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Maurello seeks to establish the United States' liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2674 (the "FTCA"), alleging that the United States Bureau of Prisons (the "Bureau") negligently or intentionally failed to admit him into an earlier residential drug treatment program while he was incarcerated at Federal Prison Camp Allenwood ("Allenwood") in Pennsylvania, thereby subjecting him to an additional fifty-one days of imprisonment. The United States seeks to avoid liability on Maurello's claim alleging that the Bureau had no duty to place Maurello in an earlier class and that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action because, pursuant to the discretionary function exception to the FTCA found at 28 U.S.C. § 2680(a), the United States has not waived sovereign immunity to this action. For the reasons expressed in this Memorandum Opinion, we hold that this Court lacks jurisdiction over Maurello's claims because they are essentially a claim for false imprisonment and the FTCA's waiver of sovereign immunity does not apply to a claim arising out of false imprisonment in these circumstances. Accordingly, Maurello's motion is denied and the United States' motion is granted.


On March 27, 1995, Maurello began serving a 36-month sentence at Allenwood, which is run by the Bureau, following his conviction for fraud offenses. *fn1 (Aff. of Arthur J. Maurello filed 3-9-00 ("Maurello Aff.") ¶ 2.) On May 26, 1995, Maurello applied for admission into Allenwood's residential substance abuse treatment program, which is offered to inmates with a treatable condition of substance abuse or addiction pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, codified in relevant part at 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b) and (e) (the "Treatment Provision"). (See id. ¶ 3.)

The Treatment Provision requires the Bureau to "make available appropriate substance abuse treatment for each prisoner the Bureau determines has a treatable condition of substance addiction or abuse." 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b). The time within which the Bureau was required to comply with the Treatment Provision was to be phased in over three years:

[S]ubject to the availability of appropriations, [the Bureau] shall provide substance abuse treatment (and make arrangements for appropriate aftercare)--

(A) for not less than 50 percent of eligible prisoners *fn2 by the end of fiscal year 1995, *fn3 with priority for such treatment accorded based on an eligible prisoner's proximity to release date;

(B) for not less than 75 percent of eligible prisoners by the end of fiscal year 1996, with priority for such treatment accorded based on an eligible prisoner's proximity to release date; and

(C) for all eligible prisoners by the end of fiscal year 1997 and thereafter, with priority for such treatment accorded based on an eligible prisoner's proximity to release date. 18 U.S.C. § 3621(e)(1) (emphasis added).

As indicated by the above underscored language of the Treatment Provision, priority for treatment is to be based on an eligible prisoner's proximity to release. Id. The Treatment Provision also provides an incentive for eligible inmates who have not been convicted of a violent offense to participate in the program:

The Period a prisoner convicted of a nonviolent offense remains in custody after successfully completing a 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. 18 U.S.C. § 3621(e)(2)(B).

The Bureau's policy when Maurello was participating in the program was to grant all inmates who had successfully completed the program and who were eligible for early release the full one year custody reduction unless the inmate had less than 18 months remaining on his sentence upon completion of the program, in which case the inmate would be released after completing his required placement for 180 days at a halfway house. (See Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. filed 4-3-00 ¶ 14 n.12 and Ex. C: Resp't's Br. filed 4-22-96 at 11, Hines v. Crabtree, 935 F. Supp. 1104 (D. Or. 1996) (No. 96-498-HA) (brief filed by the United States citing Program Statement Number 5162.02 dated 7-24-95)); see also Hines, 935 F. Supp. at 1110 (recognizing Bureau's policy of granting one-year reduction to all eligible inmates who completed program).

Allenwood's program lasts almost nine months and in accordance with Bureau policy each class is supposed to be limited to 24 inmates. (See id. ¶ 4; Report to Congress at 7; Decl. of Richard Findlay filed 3-13-00 ("Findlay Decl."), Ex. 1: Program Statement 5330.10 dated 5-25-95 ("Program Statement") § 5.2.1.)

During the Spring and Summer of 1995, Allenwood staff maintained and frequently updated a waiting list of eligible inmates. (2Maurello Aff. ¶ 6.) Among other things, the waiting list included each eligible inmate's projected release date, and such inmates were placed into each next available class based upon the inmates' proximity to release. (Id.) The waiting list was maintained by the programs director, Richard Findlay, Ph.D. ("Dr. Findlay"), and eligible inmates were permitted to inquire of Dr. Findlay from time to time regarding their status on the list. (Id. ¶ 7.) In connection with Maurello's application for admission into the program, Maurello was asked to submit documentation from outside sources to verify his alleged history of alcohol abuse because Maurello's central file and his pre-sentence report did not indicate that he had a documented substance abuse problem. (Decl. of Richard Findlay filed 3-13-00 ("Findlay Decl.") ¶¶ 12-13 and Ex. 3.) On or about June 20, 1995, Dr. Findlay received a handwritten letter from Dr. Steven I. Wolinsky dated June 15, 1995 stating that Maurello "had an alcohol dependency for several years up to 3/24/94." (Id. ¶ 13 and Ex. 4.) Soon thereafter, Dr. Findlay confirmed the authenticity of Dr. Wolinsky's letter. (Id. ¶ 14.)

Maurello alleges that during the week of June 18, 1995, Dr. Findlay told him that he was eligible for the program. (Maurello Aff. ¶ 7; 2Maurello Aff. ¶ 5.) On July 3, 1995, Tim Fahy, a drug treatment specialist at Allenwood, completed a Residential Treatment Eligibility Interview of Maurello and determined that he met the criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol dependence. (Findlay Decl. ¶ 16 and Ex. 5.) On July 7, 1995, Maurello was given a Progress Report dated June 29, 1995 by Allenwood staffperson J. Cramer. (Maurello Aff. ¶ 7; 2Maurello Aff. ¶ 5.) The report, which was signed by the Case Manager and Unit Manager for the B Unit, indicated that "Maurello has not yet participated in any formal counseling programs. However, he has applied for and been accepted into the ADAPT Program with a tentative start date of July 18, 1995. This program is designed to help him deal with an alcohol abuse problem." (Maurello Aff. Ex. B: Progress Report dated 6-29-95 at 2, ¶ D.)

The next program class, Class 12, was scheduled to begin, and did begin, on July 18, 1995. (Maurello Aff. ¶ 12.) In mid-July, a few days prior to the actual start of class 12, Maurello asked Dr. Findlay to confirm whether or not he would be participating in Class 12. (Id. ¶ 15.) Dr. Findlay told Maurello that Maurello would not be in Class 12, but would probably be in Class 13. (Id.) Maurello asked Dr. Findlay if there were inmates in Class 12 with projected release dates later than Maurello's. (2Maurello Aff. ¶ 11.) Dr. Findlay told Maurello that there were inmates admitted to Class 12 with later release dates than Maurello but that those inmates had already been moved into C-Unit (the building housing treatment participants) and that a decision had been made not to move them out again. (Id.) At least four inmates who participated in Class 12 had projected release dates that were later than Maurello's release date. (Id. ¶ 12.)

The United States claims that Maurello was not admitted into Class 12 because he was not found eligible for the program until after admission for Class 12 had been finalized. (Findlay Decl. ¶¶ 16-18 and Ex. 5.) The United States argues that Dr. Findlay exercised his judgment in determining when residential treatment program classes were finalized. (Id. ¶ 19.) The United States asserts that inmates accepted into a class have to be physically moved to the unit where the inmates will be housed during the program. (Id.) The United States claims that based upon the number of inmates to be moved (24), the requirements of the residential treatment program, and the obvious security, organizational, and logistical concerns inherent in a prison environment, Dr. Findlay had to establish a deadline for admission into any residential treatment program ...

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