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Figueras v. Johns

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

September 20, 2017

JOEL FIGUERAS, Petitioner,
TRACY JOHNS, Respondent.



         Petitioner Joel Figueras (“Figueras”), who is currently incarcerated at D. Ray James Correctional Facility in Folkston, Georgia, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. 1.) Respondent filed a Response. (Doc. 8.) For the reasons which follow, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS Figueras's Petition without prejudice, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case, and DENY Figueras in forma pauperis status on appeal.


         Figueras is serving a 160-month term of incarceration for conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by threat and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) and § 924(c)(1)(A). (Doc. 8-1, pp. 12-17.) He has a projected release date of September 17, 2019, via good conduct time release, to be followed by 5 years of supervised release. (Id. at pp. 7-9.) On July 25, 2010, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service, issued a detainer against Figueras. (Id. at p. 21.)

         The Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) assigned a Public Safety Factor (“PSF”) of Alien to Figueras's Custody Classification, because ICE classified him as an alien subject to deportation. (Id. at pp. 3, 23.) As Respondent explains:

BOP defines a PSF as relevant factual information regarding the inmate's current offense, sentence, criminal history, or institutional behavior that requires additional security measures to be employed to ensure the safety and protection of the public. Public Safety Factors normally are applied prior to an inmate's initial assignment to an institution; however, additions or deletions may be made at any time thereafter. A maximum of three PSFs may be applied to any given inmate. However, if more than three apply, those which would provide the greatest security and public safety will be utilized. [Doc. 8-1] at ¶ 8, Attach. 6.
A Public Safety Factor of Alien is applied upon a male or female inmate who is not a citizen of the United States. All long-term detainees will have this PSF applied. When applied, the inmate or the long-term detainee is housed in at least a Low security level institution. The PSF is not applied, or is removed, when ICE or the Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”) have determined that deportation proceedings are unwarranted or there is a finding not to deport at the completion of deportation proceedings. Id. at ¶ 10, Attach. 6.
BOP policy provides that inmates who have been assigned a Public Safety Factor of Alien ordinarily are not eligible for placement into a Residential Reentry Center. Id. at ¶ 11, Attach. 7.

(Doc. 8, pp. 4-5.)


         Figueras attacks his ICE detainer and the BOP's PSF. In his Petition, Figueras argues that his “ICE Detainer has not been taken care of within 180 days.” (Doc. 1, pp. 6.) In his supporting brief, he argues his due process rights have been violated because his immigration case has been pending without any action for more than six and a half years. (Doc. 1-1, p. 2.) Figueras asks that the Court cancel the detainer against him and remove his PSF so that he can be placed in a halfway house or home detention. (Id. at pp. 2-3.)

         Respondent advances numerous grounds to dismiss Figueras's Petition. (Doc. 8.) Respondent contends Figueras failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing his Petition. (Id. at pp. 7-9.) Moreover, Respondent contends that Figueras's claims challenge the conditions of his confinement, and therefore, cannot be brought under Section 2241. (Id. at pp. 5-6.) Respondent also asserts that the immigration detainer against Figueras is not “custody” for Section 2241 purposes. (Id. at pp. 6-7.)[1]

         I. Whether Figueras Exhausted his Administrative Remedies

         A. Legal Requirements for Exhaustion

         The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a Section 2241 petitioner's failure to exhaust administrative remedies is not a jurisdictional defect. Santiago-Lugo v. Warden, 785 F.3d 467, 474 (11th Cir. 2015); see also Fleming v. Warden of FCI Tallahassee, 631 F.App'x 840, 842 (11th Cir. 2015) (“[Section] 2241's exhaustion requirement was judicially imposed, not congressionally mandated, and . . . nothing in the statute itself support[s] the conclusion that the requirement [is] jurisdictional.”). Nevertheless, the Eleventh Circuit has noted “that the exhaustion requirement is still a requirement and that courts cannot ‘disregard a failure to exhaust . . . if the respondent properly asserts the defense.'” Id. (citing Santiago-Lugo, 785 F.3d at 475). Failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense, and inmates are not required to specially plead or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaint. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). Additionally, the United States Supreme Court recently “held that the PLRA's [“Prison Litigation Reform Act's”] text suggests no limits on an inmate's obligation to exhaust-irrespective of any ‘special circumstances.' And that mandatory language means a court may not excuse a failure to exhaust, even to take such circumstances into account.” Ross v. Blake, ___ U.S. ___, 2016 WL 3128839, at *5 (June 6, 2016).

         The requirement that the exhaustion of remedies occur “first in an agency setting allows ‘the agency [to] develop the necessary factual background upon which decisions should be based' and giv[es] ‘the agency a chance to discover and correct its own errors.'” Green v. Sec'y for Dep't of Corr., 212 F.App'x 869, 871 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Alexander v. Hawk, 159 F.3d 1321, 1327 (11th Cir. 1998) (first alteration in original)). Furthermore, requiring exhaustion in the prison setting “eliminate[s] unwarranted federal-court interference with the administration of prisons” and allows ...

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