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PHILLIPS v. NASH

December 12, 2005.

PETER A. PHILLIPS, Petitioner,
v.
JOHN NASH, Warden, et al., Respondents.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT KUGLER, Magistrate Judge

OPINION

Petitioner Peter A. Phillips ("Phillips"), an immigration detainee currently confined at the Federal Correctional Institution ("FCI") at Oakdale, Louisiana, has submitted a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.*fn1 The named respondents are Warden John Nash, FCI Fort Dix, the United States Attorney, the Bureau of Immigration and Custom Enforcement ("BICE"), and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Phillips was a federal prisoner at FCI Fort Dix at the time he initially filed this petition.

  For the reasons set forth below, the petition will be dismissed.

  I. BACKGROUND

  Phillips filed a § 2241 habeas petition on or about January 21, 2005, challenging (a) the calculation of his good conduct time; (b) the Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP") higher Public Safety Factor ("PSF") classification of petitioner based on the BICE's detainer lodged against petitioner; and (c) the BOP's classification of petitioner as an alien subject to deportation when petitioner has a pending application for naturalization. He also seeks to enjoin the BOP from transferring him to an immigration deportation center while this action is pending.

  On or about April 8, 2005, petitioner filed a motion seeking to restrain the BOP from transferring him to the Oakdale Detention Center in Oakdale, Louisiana. This motion became moot when petitioner was in fact transferred to Oakdale in April 2005.*fn2 Recently, Phillips filed an "addendum" to his habeas petition seeking his immediate deportation. II. ANALYSIS

  A. Good Conduct Time Claim

  Phillips appears to argue that the BOP's interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 3624 (b) is unreasonable, and that the BOP's calculation of his good conduct time does not reflect the intent of the statute. Section 3624(b) of the United States Code, Title 18, governs good conduct time for federal prisoners. This section reads:
"Subject to paragraph (2), a prisoner who is serving a term of imprisonment of more than 1 year other than a term of imprisonment for the duration of the prisoner's life, may receive credit toward the service of the prisoner's sentence, beyond the time served, of up to 54 days at the end of each year of the prisoner's term of imprisonment, beginning at the end of the first year of the term, subject to determination by the Bureau of Prisons that, during that year, the prisoner has displayed exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations. . . . Credit that has not been earned may not later be granted. Subject to paragraph (2), credit for the last year or portion of a year of the term of imprisonment shall be prorated and credited within the last six weeks of the sentence."
18 U.S.C. § 3624(b) (1). Subparagraph (b) (2) provides that credits awarded after the date of enactment (April 26, 1996) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (Title VII of Pub.L. 104-134) "shall vest on the date the prisoner is released from custody." 18 U.S.C. § 3624 (b) (2).

  The Bureau of Prisons has codified its interpretation of former and current § 3624(b) at 28 C.F.R. § 523.20.

 
Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3624(b), as in effect for offenses committed on or after November 1, 1987 but before April 26, 1996, an inmate earns 54 days credit toward service of sentence (good conduct time credit) for each year served. This amount is prorated when the time served by the inmate for the sentence during the year is less than a full year. The amount to be awarded is also subject to disciplinary disallowance. . . . Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3624(b), as in effect for offenses committed on or after April 26, 1996, the Bureau shall consider whether the inmate has earned, or is making satisfactory progress (see § 544.73 (b) of this chapter) toward earning a General Educational Development (GED) credential before awarding good conduct time credit.
(a) When considering good conduct time for an inmate serving a sentence for an offense committed on or after April 26, 1996, the Bureau shall award:
(1) 54 days credit for each year served (prorated when the time served by the inmate for the sentence during the year is less than a full year) if the inmate has earned or is making satisfactory progress toward earning a GED credential or high school diploma; or . . .
This interpretation is implemented through BOP Program Statement ("P.S.") 5880.28 (emphasis added). See also P.S. 5884.01, Good Conduct time Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The Bureau of Prisons has determined that "54 days of GCT [("good conduct time")] may be earned for each full year served on a sentence in excess of one year," P.S. 5880.28(g) (emphasis added), and has derived a formula to calculate the amount of GCT that may be earned for any fractional year served on a sentence in excess of one year.
 
For release purposes, subsection 3624(b) is the most important provision in the computation process since the proper application of that subsection determines the actual statutory date of release for the prisoner. The release date is determined, of course, by subtracting the total amount of GCT awarded during the term of the sentence from the full time date of the sentence. The total amount of GCT awarded during the term of a sentence is found by adding the amount of GCT awarded at the end of each year to the amount of GCT awarded for the last portion of a year.
As noted in (1) above, 54 days of GCT may be awarded for each full year served on a sentence in excess of one year. Since 54 days of GCT per year cannot be divided evenly into one year, or 12 months, or 52 weeks, or 365 days, determining the amount of GCT that may be awarded for the last portion of a year on the sentence becomes arithmetically complicated. The BOP has developed a formula (hereinafter called the "GCT formula") that best conforms to the statute when calculating the maximum number of days that may be awarded for the time served during the last portion of a year on the sentence.
The GCT formula is based on dividing 54 days (the maximum number of days that can be awarded for one year in service of a sentence) into one day which results in the portion of one day of GCT that may be awarded for one day served on a sentence. 365 days divided into 54 days equals . 148. Since .148 is less than one full day, no GCT can be awarded for one day served on the sentence. Two days of service on a sentence equals.296 (2 × .148) or zero days GCT; . . . seven days equals 1.036 (7 × .148) or 1 day GCT. The fraction is always dropped.
. . .
It is essential to learn that GCT is not awarded on the basis of the length of the sentence imposed, but rather on the number of days actually served. In other words, when the GCT awarded plus the number of days actually served equals the days remaining on the sentence, then the prisoner shall be released on the date arrived at in the computation process. (days remaining on sentence — (GCT days served) = release date). . . .
P.S. 5880.28(g), Sentence Computation Manual CCCA, at 1-40 through 1-45 (emphasis added).

  Phillips admits that he exhausted his administrative remedies challenging the BOP's calculation of his good conduct time, and that the Administrator for National inmate Appeals ultimately determined that the BOP computed his sentence as required.

  Similarly, this Court finds that the BOP's interpretation is reasonable and entitled to deference under the rule of Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842-43 (1984).

 
When a court reviews an agency's construction of the statute which it administers, it is confronted with two questions. First, always, is the question whether Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue. If the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter; for the courts, as well as the agency, must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress. If, however, the court determines Congress has not directly addressed the precise question at issue, the court does not simply impose its own construction on the statute, as would be necessary in the absence of an administrative interpretation. Rather, if the statute is silent or ambiguous with respect to the ...

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