goodman vs ortiz: 2241 education in prison

Goodman vs. Ortiz and the ability to get Time credits early

Many of you have been asking for information surrounding Goodman vs. Ortiz, 2020-cv-07582, Document 12 (D.N.J. 2020) and how it may help you receive your time credits as part of the risk and needs assessment program.

Goodman’s Procedural History

Goodman was a federal inmate at Fort Dix FCI. He had been sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release. With all of his good time credits his release date would have been January 20, 2021 with an RRC date of 10/27/2020.

Goodman had been declared a “low” risk of recidivism under the risk and needs assessment. His crime was not something that made him ineligible for time credits. This meant that he could receive 15 days of time credits for every 30 days of programming. He had been assigned programming activities that met the requirements of the act and the case manager explicitly confirmed to petitioner that the cases qualified. Goodman did the programming and had accumulated 240 days of credit. This meant that he could reduce his sentence by 120 days. In Goodman’s case the court reasoned that Goodman should have been released on July 5, 2020. Goodman filed a 2241 seeking relief. The government’s position was that the language in the FIRST STEP Act “gives the BOP two years after it completes the risk and needs assessment for each prisoner to ‘phase in’ the program implementation,” including by awarding “Earned Time” credits, that is, by January 15, 2022.”

Administrative Remedies

First, although the court determined that Goodman had not exhausted all of his administrative remedies, but that “[t]his case, however, presents a narrow dispute of statutory construction which is exempt from the exhaustion requirement. See Coleman v. U.S. Parole Comm’n, 644 F. App’x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2016)(“exhaustion is not required with regard to claims which turn only
on statutory construction”). Further, the court determined that because the court found that Habeas relief should be granted, exhaustion was excused.

Can Goodman Get Relief from the Time Credits?

The court determined that “18 U.S.C. § 3621(h)(2) requires phase-in of the risk recidivism program.” Normally, “phase-in” means that it would be implemented gradually “so that every prisoner has the opportunity to participate in and complete the type and amount of evidence-based recidivism reduction programs or productive activities they need.”

Next the court stated that the “‘statute must be read in [its] context and with a view to [its] place in the overall statutory scheme.’” Further, “Section 3621(h)(3) instructs that “'[d]uring the 2-year period described in paragraph (2)(A), the priority for such programs and activities shall be accorded based on a prisoner’s proximity to release date.’” When read in this way, the court reasoned that the statute makes it clear that prisoners that earned sufficient time credits during the phase in period could be released prior to the end-date for the two-year phase-in. “Even the use of the words “all prisoners” indicates that all prisoners must be afforded the PATTERN program but does not exclude that some prisoners will participate in, earn incentives and complete the program before the end of the phase-in period.”

Conflicting court decisions before Goodman

This seems straight forward, but many other courts have come to different decisions, all with a similar paragraph

Herring v. Joseph, Case No. 4:20cv249-TKW-HTC (N.D. FL 2020):

Because the Act itself does not require actual implementation for each inmate until January 2022, Petitioner is not entitled to an order from this Court compelling the BOP to recalculate Petitioner’s credits. His petition is premature and his claim is not yet ripe…Indeed, because the courses for which Petitioner seeks credit occurred between November 2018 and December 2019, before the January 15, 2020 date, they would not count towards his First Step Act credit…Therefore, providing Petitioner the relief he requests would result in an “unwarranted federal court interreference with the administration of prisons.”

See Also Bowling v. Hudgins, 5:19-CV-00285, (N.D.W.V) (note, however, that this petitioner filed their 2241 in 2019)
See Also Allen v. Hendrix, 2:19-CV-00107-BSM-JTR (E.D. Ark)(note, however, that this petitioner filed their 2241 in 2019. The suit was resolved in 2019).
See Also Kurti v. White, No. 1:19-CV-2109, (M.D. Pa. Apr. 29, 2020)

So given the research, the key factors are going to be what a person’s classification was for the risk and needs assessment program, how many courses a person has taken, whether those courses count for purposes of the time credits and how many time credits a person has. We are available at [email protected] to talk about this further.