Close v. Thomas

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 08-03-2011
  • Case #: 10-35850; 10-35851; 10-35853; 10-35852; 10-35854; 10-35855; 10-35856; 10-35857; 10-35858; 10-35859
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Paez for the Court; Circuit Judge Gould and R. Fisher
  • Full Text Opinion

The Court denied Close and nine other prisoners habeas corpus petitions, holding that the plain language of the statute does not allow BOP to determine RDAP waitlist positions based on a potential early release date after successful completion of the program.

Close and nine other prisoners, appealed the district court’s decision denying their habeas corpus petitions. 18 U.S.C § 3621 provides that the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) can reward non-violent offenders with early release if they successfully complete the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program (“RDAP”). This program is also available for violent offenders, but the early release date incentive is not. The statute also provides that the priority for the treatment program is based on the prisoners “proximity to release date.” However, the statute does not indicate whether the BOP should factor in the potential early release date in order to determine the prisoner’s placement on the RDAP waitlist. In some cases the BOP has factored it in and in other cases it has not. This issue is important because of the program’s high demand. Close and the other RDAP-eligible nonviolent offenders, filed a habeas corpus petition after the Oregon district court held that the BOP is required to include the early release date in their waitlist calculations. The Ninth Circuit held that because the plain language of the statute is unambiguous and the early release date is discretionary, the statue does not allow the BOP to reference early release dates when determining waitlist placement. However, the Court also pointed out that the programs “insufficient capacity” requires legislative or administrative remedy. AFFIRMED.

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