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Nieves v. Warden, FCI Elkton

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

January 9, 2020

MAXIMINO NIEVES, PETITIONER,
v.
WARDEN, FCI ELKTON, RESPONDENT.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          PAMELA A. BARKER, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court by transfer from the United States District Court, District of New Jersey, to the Northern District Ohio. Maximino Nieves filed a motion in his criminal case in the District of New Jersey, Criminal Action No. 06-569 (“Criminal Case”), regarding the recalculation of his good-time credits pursuant to the First Step Act. The District of New Jersey construed Nieves' motion as a challenge to the execution of his sentence, rather than the judicially imposed length of his sentence, and determined that such a challenge must be brought as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 rather than as a motion in the Criminal Case. Therefore, the District of New Jersey ordered the criminal motion terminated and refiled as a separate § 2241 habeas petition on a new docket, then transferred it to the Northern District of Ohio, the judicial district within which Nieves is confined. (Doc. No. 2.)

         For relief, Nieves seeks interim conditional release and an order directing the BOP to recalculate his good-time credits pursuant to the First Step Act. (Doc. No. 1 at 1, 13.[1])

         For the reasons that follow, the petition is dismissed.

         A. Background

         Nieves is a federal prisoner presently incarcerated at FCI Elkton in Lisbon, Ohio. On December 5, 2008, he was sentenced in the Criminal Case to 220 months of imprisonment for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; his sentence was later reduced to 188 months of imprisonment. Nieves claims that under the First Step Act, he should receive 110 days of good-time credits in addition to the credits that he has already earned, which would advance his projected release date from May 24, 2021 to February 3, 2021. (Id. at 1.)

         According to the petition, the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) has not yet acted to change Nieves' projected release date on the grounds that the First Step Act contains a delayed effective date for implementation of the good-time credit amendment. (Id. at 1-2.) Nieves identifies the issue as “whether the delayed effective date in Section 102(b)(2) applies only to the earned time transfer provisions in Section 102(b)(1)(B), or whether it also delays the BOP's implementation of the independent good-time fix in Section 102(b)(1)(A).” Nieves claims that the good-time credit amendment should be effective immediately. (Id. at 5.)

         In addition, Nieves maintains that he need not exhaust his administrative remedies with the BOP on this issue before seeking relief pursuant to § 2241 because exhaustion is excused where (1) a prisoner faces irreparable harm from delay, (2) there is doubt as to whether the agency is empowered to render relief, or (3) the agency has predetermined the issue rendering exhaustion futile. Nieves contends that all three considerations apply here. (Id. at 11-12.)

         B. The First Step Act

         The portions of the First Step Act relevant here have been aptly summarized as follows:

Subparagraph 102(b)(1)(A) of the First Step Act amended 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b) to alter the availability of good-time credit for federal inmates. Specifically, it increased the maximum allowable good-time credit from 47 to 54 days per year, and it directed the BOP to calculate good-time credit from the beginning of the final year of the sentence rather than prorating at the end. First Step Act, Pub. L. No. 115-391, § 102(b)(1)(A), 132 Stat. 5194 (2018).
Separately, Subparagraph 102(b)(1)(B) of the First Step Act developed a system of earned-time transfer credits. Earned-time transfer credits are to be awarded as a benefit of inmates' participation in recidivism-reduction programming. Under Subparagraph 102(b)(1)(B), the BOP can place an “eligible prisoner” in prerelease custody outside of prison, or on supervised release up to 12 months prior to the end of the sentence. Id., § 102(b)(1)(B).
To aid implementation of certain portions of the First Step Act, the Attorney General is directed to create a “risk and needs assessment system, ” to be completed and released no later than 210 days from the date of the statute's enactment; that is, July 19, 2019. Id., § 101(a); 18 U.S.C. § 3632(a). The risk and needs assessment system is meant to assess inmates' risk of recidivism and develop guidance for managing and reducing that risk.

Hamm v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, No. 1:19CV1110, 2019 WL 2717957, at *1 (N.D. Ohio June ...


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