Friday, June 22, 2012

Court Upholds Challenge to BOP Placement Decision; Addresses 2241 and Exhaustion

    In Vasquez v. Strada, No. 12-1114 (3d Cir. June 1, 2012) (published June 20, 2012, at Appellee’s motion), the Court held that BOP did not abuse its discretion in community placement assessment; exception to exhaustion requirement does not apply because issue does not involve only statutory construction.

     In this § 2241 habeas case from the Middle District of Pennsylvania, a federal prisoner challenges the BOP’s determination of his halfway house placement under the Second Chance Act of 2007 and 42 U.S.C. § 17541, the federal prisoner reentry initiative. The regulations implementing the Act require the BOP to make an individual determination of placement time, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b), and give the BOP discretion to consider incentives such as participation in skills development programs.

     The BOP’s assessment recommended Vasquez for community placement, but not for the maximum 12-month period, based partially on his failure to participate in educational programs. Vasquez filed a habeas petition, challenging the BOP’s implementation of the federal prisoner reentry initiative and seeking the full 12 month community placement. The district court dismissed the petition, finding both that Vasquez had failed to exhaust administrative remedies, and that his petition lacked merit.

     The panel holds that § 2241 is the proper vehicle to challenge the halfway house placement, but finds that Vasquez does not meet the statutory construction exception to the exhaustion requirement, because he is seeking the full 12-month placement. Despite its decision on exhaustion, the panel reviews the merits of the petition, finding that the BOP did not abuse its discretion in its balancing of the five § 3621(b) factors with the Second Chance Act. The panel also finds that Vasquez “received appropriate consideration for the maximum allowable period of community placement.”

     The panel affirms the district court’s dismissal of the petition.

Maria Pulzetti, EDPA, Capital Habeas Unit

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