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I.H. v. Warden of Unnamed Federal Correctional Institution

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 25, 2019

I.H., Fed. Reg. No. 62317-050, Petitioner
v.
WARDEN OF UNNAMED FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION, Respondent

          OPINION

          Renee Marie Bumb United States District Judge

         On June 20, 2018, Petitioner I.H., [1] a prisoner confined in an unnamed Federal Correctional Facility, [2] filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging his loss of good time credits as a sanction following a prison disciplinary hearing. (Pet., ECF No. 1.) On August 6, 2018, Respondent filed Respondent's Answer to Petition For a Writ of Habeas Corpus. (“Answer”, ECF No. 3.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies the petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Respondents submit that Petitioner is incarcerated in a federal institution within the jurisdiction of this Court. (Answer, ECF No. 3 at 3.) At the time of the incident underlying the discipline he challenges, Petitioner was designated to a different federal institution. (Id.)

         On April 19, 2017, Petitioner was charged with “Engaging in Sexual Acts, ” a violation of Prohibited Act Code 205, in Incident Report No. 2976971. (Declaration of Ondreya Barksdale, [3] (“Barksdale Decl.”), Ex. F, ECF No. 3-2 at 14, Part I, ¶¶9, 10.) On April 19, 2017 at 2:15 p.m., staff became aware of the following incident:

Upon a review of institutional camera system at [REDACTED] Housing Unit, I became aware of inmate I.H.2, #62317-050, masturbating to female staff members working on the evening of Saturday, April 8, 2017. Specifically, on April 8, 2017, at 5:43 pm, I.H.2, approached the microwave stand located outside the Unit Officer's station Upon approaching the microwave station, I.H.2 was moving his hand in an in and out motion on his fully erect penis. He stationed himself behind the microwave stand and continued to masturbate, grasping his erect penis with his left hand and moving it in and out, while staring directly into the Officer's station where the female officer was sitting the entire time. He continued this behavior until 5:49 pm, when he walks away. The review of camera N-15-Commons Area, clearly shows the entire incident. I.H.2 was escorted to the SHU without further incident.

(Barksdale Decl., Ex. F, ECF No. 3-2, Part I, §§9-10.) Petitioner was provided a copy of the Incident Report on April 20, 2017, at 9:59 a.m. (Id., ¶¶15, 16.) Petitioner was advised of his right to remain silent during the disciplinary process. (Id., Part III, ¶23.) When the Incident Report was investigated, Petitioner stated “[t]his is unbelievable, and I want to see the camera.” (Id., ¶24.) Petitioner did not ask to call any witnesses. (Id., ¶25.)

         After investigation, the Incident Report was referred to the Unit Disciplinary Committee (“UDC”) for an Initial Hearing. (Id., ¶¶ 26-27.) A hearing was held before the UDC on April 26, 2017, and Petitioner declined to make any comments. (Id., Part II, ¶¶7, 11.) The UDC referred the Incident Report to the Discipline Hearing Officer (“DHO”) for final disposition and recommended the imposition of “whatever sanctions are available to the DHO.” (Id., ¶¶18, 20.)

         Petitioner was advised of his rights before the DHO. (Barksdale Decl., Ex. D., ECF No. 3-2 at 8-10.) He asked to have a staff representative and to call witnesses, although he could not identify any witnesses who were present “until verified by staff rep.” (Barksdale Decl., Ex. C, ECF No. 3-2 at 6-7.) Petitioner's DHO hearing was held on May 9, 2017. (Barksdale Decl., Ex. A, ECF No. 3-2, Part I.B.) The DHO read Petitioner his rights. (Barksdale Decl., Ex. A, ECF No. 3-2, Part I.C.) Petitioner then waived his right to a staff representative and did not request any witnesses. (Id., Parts II.A, III.C.1; Barksdale Decl., Ex. B, ECF No. 3-2 at 4-5.) Petitioner declined to make a statement on his own behalf. (Id., Ex. A, ECF No. 3-2, Part III.B.)

         The DHO considered the evidence, including the Incident Report and a DVD containing a recorded version of the prohibited act, and found that the greater weight of the evidence supported that Petitioner committed the prohibited act. (Id., Ex. C, ECF No. 3-2, Part III.D, V.) The DHO imposed sanctions including disallowance of 20 days of good conduct time, disciplinary segregation for 30 days (15 days suspended pending clear conduct for 180 days), and one-year loss of visiting privileges. (Barksdale Decl., Ex. A, ECF No. 3-2, Part VI.) Petitioner was provided a copy of the DHO Report on May 16, 2017. (Id., Part IX.) Petitioner properly exhausted his administrative remedies regarding the disciplinary action. (Barksdale Decl., ECF No. 3-1, ¶¶4-5.)

         In the petition, Petitioner raises three grounds for relief: (1) the UDC exceeded its authority by determining Petitioner's guilt; (2) the UDC and DHO did not view the video footage to determine guilt; and (3) the DHO convinced Petitioner to waive a staff representative. (Pet., ECF No. 1, ¶13.) Petitioner submitted an affidavit (Affidavit of I.H., ECF No. 1-3 at 1-2) and a Memorandum of Law in Supp. of Title 28 Section 221 Petition. (“Petr's Mem.”, ECF No. 1-3 at 3-17.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Law

         28 U.S.C. § 2241 provides, in relevant part:

(a) Writs of habeas corpus may be granted by the Supreme Court, any justice thereof, the district courts and any circuit judge within their respective jurisdictions….
(c) The writ of habeas corpus shall not extend to a prisoner unless-
(3) He is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States….

         “Federal prisoners serving a term of imprisonment of more than one year have a statutory right to receive credit toward their sentence for good conduct.” Denny v. Schultz, 708 F.3d 140, 143-44 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b); 28 C.F.R. § 523.20 (2008)). Based on this statutorily created right, “a prisoner has a constitutionally protected liberty interest in good time credit.” Id. (quoting Young v. Kann, 926 F.2d 1396, 1399 (3d Cir. 1991) (citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556-57 (1974)).

         The Supreme Court defined the due process protections required where a prison disciplinary hearing may result in loss of good conduct time. The five due process protections in a prison disciplinary proceeding include: 1) the right to appear before an impartial decision-making body; 2) twenty-four hour advance written notice of the charges; 3) an opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence, provided the presentation of such does not threaten institutional safety or correctional goals; 4) assistance from an inmate representative, if the charged inmate is illiterate or complex issues are involved; and 5) a written decision by the fact-finder including the evidence relied on and the reason for the disciplinary action. Wolff, ...


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