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Holmes v. Flournoy

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

August 8, 2017

JOHN V. FLOURNOY, Respondent.



         Petitioner James Coury Holmes (“Holmes”), who is currently housed at the Federal Correctional Institution in Estill, South Carolina, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 while housed at the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, Georgia (“FCI Jesup”). (Doc. 1.) Respondent filed a Response. (Doc. 12.) Holmes filed a Reply to Respondent's Response. (Doc. 17.) Respondent then filed a Reply Brief in Support of his Response, (doc. 19), to which Holmes filed a Rebuttal, (doc. 21). For the reasons which follow, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Holmes' Petition in part and DENY Holmes' Petition in part, CLOSE this case, and DENY Holmes in forma pauperis status on appeal.


         Holmes was convicted in the District of South Carolina of bank robbery and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2113(a), (d), and 924(c)(1). (Doc. 12-1, pp. 8-9.) He was sentenced to 1, 057 months' imprisonment. (Id.) Holmes has a projected release date of September 3, 2076, via good conduct release, to be followed by five years' supervised release. (Id. at p. 2.)

         In addition to Holmes' term of imprisonment, the sentencing court imposed a special assessment of $800.00 and ordered him to pay $82, 423.00 in restitution. (Id. at p. 3.) The court recommended that Holmes participate in the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (“IFRP”) to satisfy his assessment and restitution obligations. (Id. at p. 11.) On October 14, 2013, while housed at FCI Jesup, Holmes signed an agreement pursuant to the IFRP wherein he agreed to pay $25.00 per month beginning in November 2013. (Id. at pp. 4, 22.) The Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) reassessed Holmes' financial plan the following year and increased his monthly payments to $35.00 per month, after determining that Holmes had deposited $1, 050.00 into his inmate trust account during the preceding six months. (Id. at p. 4.) Holmes refused to pay this increased amount and was placed in IFRP refuse status, which resulted in the loss of certain privileges.


         “A person sentenced to pay a fine or other monetary penalty . . . shall make such payment immediately, unless, in the interest of justice, the court provides for payment on a date certain or in installments.” 18 U.S.C. § 3572(d)(1). Accordingly, the BOP enacted the IFRP to encourage “each sentenced inmate to meet his or her legitimate financial obligations.” Williams v. Pearson, 197 F. App'x 872, 876 (11th Cir 2006) (citing 28 C.F.R. § 545.10). “The regulations provide that, when an inmate has a financial obligation, including the special assessment and restitution imposed at sentencing, BOP staff ‘shall help that inmate develop a financial plan and shall monitor the inmate's progress in meeting that obligation.'” Id. at 876-77 (citing 28 C.F.R. § 545.11.) In doing so, BOP staff conduct an independent assessment of an inmate's ability to pay by reviewing the inmate's financial obligations and all available documentation. 28 C.F.R. § 545.11(a). The BOP may obtain payments from funds earned through prison employment as well as from funds received from outside sources, such as money sent by relatives. Id. at § 545.11(b). “The IFRP . . . is a voluntary program[.]” Williams, 197 F. App'x at 877 (citing 28 C.F.R. § 545.11(d)). However, refusal by an inmate to participate in the IFRP or to comply with the provisions of his or her financial plan ordinarily results in the limitation of certain privileges. See id. at 877 (citing 28 C.F.R. § 545.11(d)).

         In his Petition, Holmes first contends the sentencing court improperly delegated the duty to manage his restitution payments to the BOP. (Doc. 1, pp. 8, 9.) Next, Plaintiff argues BOP staff did not properly calculate exemptions before determining his monthly restitution payment, as required by BOP Program Statement 5380.08. (Id.) Alternatively, Plaintiff argues that he is not required to pay restitution payments until he is released from prison. (Id. at p. 9.) Finally, Holmes argues prison staff violated his due process rights by reducing his pay grade at his prison detail, restricting his commissary purchases to $25.00 per month, and placing him in a three-man cell, in response to Holmes' refusal to make increased IFRP payments.[1]

         Respondent contends the BOP followed policy in calculating Holmes' increased monthly restitution payment and that the sentencing court did not improperly delegate this duty to the BOP. (Doc. 12, pp. 1-2.) Respondent further contends that, to the extent Holmes challenges the sentencing court's judgment as to his restitution payment, that claim is not cognizable via 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and must be brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Finally, Respondent argues that Holmes' withdrawal of privileges pursuant to his refusal to participate in the IFRP does not violate his constitutional rights. The Court addresses each of these contentions in turn.

         I. Whether the Sentencing Court Properly Delegated IFRP Duty to BOP

         “Pursuant to the [Mandatory Victims Restitution Act]” (“MVRA”), “the district court must order restitution to victims in the full amount of their losses.” Young v. Augustine, No. 5:11cv396, 2012 WL 6955480, at *4 (N.D. Fla. Dec. 12, 2012) (citing 18 U.S.C. §§ 3663A(a)(1), 3664(f)(1)(A)). “Once restitution is ordered, the district court must specify the manner and schedule according to which restitution will be paid.” Id. (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3664(f)(1)(B)(2)). “A district court may order that restitution be paid in a single, lump sum payment, partial payments at specified intervals, or a combination of payments at specified intervals.” Id. (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3664(f)(1)(B)(3)). “When a restitution order permits other than immediate payment, the district court must set the payment schedule.” Id. (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3572(d)).

         Based upon the statutory provisions laid out above, Holmes contends that setting his payment schedule is a “core judicial function, ” and that the BOP's assumption of that duty is illegal. While Holmes attempts to characterize this argument as one regarding the BOP's execution of his sentence, his claim that the sentencing court improperly delegated its duty to set his payment schedule to the BOP challenges the validity of that sentence. Challenges to the validity of a restitution order may not be brought pursuant to Section 2241. See Austin v. United States, 368 F. App'x 53, 54 (11th Cir. 2010) (petitioner's claim that district court improperly delegated authority to BOP to set restitution payment schedule may not be brought in Section 2241 petition); Williams, 197 F. App'x at 877 (same); see also Simmons v. United States, 232 F. App'x 952, 953 (11th Cir. 2007) (“While [petitioner] characterizes his argument as an attack on the execution of his sentence, a charge of improper delegation challenges the validity of the sentence itself.”). Accordingly, Holmes may not pursue this claim via his Section 2241 Petition.[2] The Court should DISMISS this portion of Holmes' Petition on this basis.

          II. Whether the BOP Properly Calculated Petitioner's IFRP Payments

         Pursuant to BOP Program Statement 5380.08, “[i]n developing an inmate's financial plan, the Unit Team shall first” note the balance of the inmate's prison trust fund account. (Doc. 12-1, p. 86.) The Unit Team shall then “subtract from the trust fund account [balance] the inmate's minimum payment schedule, according to his UNICOR pay grade or non-UNICOR work assignment.[3] (Id. at p. 87.) “The Unit Team shall then exclude from its assessment $75.00 [per] month deposited into the inmate's trust fund account. This $75.00 is excluded to ...

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