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Roudabush v. Warden FCI Edgefield

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

August 8, 2018

James L. Roudabush, Jr., #82038-083, Petitioner,
v.
Warden FCI Edgefield, Respondent.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JACQUELYN D. AUSTIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         James L. Roudabush, Jr. (“Petitioner”), proceeding pro se, brings this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.[1] [Doc. 2.] Petitioner, an inmate in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) presently incarcerated at FCI Edgefield, in Edgefield, South Carolina, seeks release from BOP custody, challenging various conditions of his confinement and claiming his life is in imminent danger. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C., the undersigned is authorized to review such petitions for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge. For the reasons below, the Petition is subject to summary dismissal.

         BACKGROUND

         Petitioner filed this writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, seeking immediate release from prison, complaining of unconstitutional conditions of confinement, and claiming his life is in imminent danger. [Doc. 2 at 1, 5.] Petitioner contends that Warden Mosely, Captain Castro, Judge Hendricks, Magistrate Judge Austin, Lt. Blackwater, and the U.S. Attorney for South Carolina all know about the issues facing Petitioner, but do nothing to “stop the abuse.” [Id. at 1.] Prison staff will not allow Petitioner to sleep, and they harass him all night. [Id. at 2.] Petitioner has been locked in a Special Housing Unit (“SHU”) cell for over five months. [Id.] BOP Officials placed Petitioner at FCI Edgefield to have him killed because the BOP is running a drug cartel at Edgefield and Williamsburg. [Id.] Petitioner is being denied medical care and food. [Id.] Prison staff continue to place “druggies” in Petitioner's cell with him. [Id.] Petitioner contends he has no other way to get relief because the District of South Carolina Judges refuse to do anything about the conditions of confinement. [Id. at 3.] Prison staff condone drug use and give drugs, tobacco, and alcohol to inmates. [Id.] Petitioner has been placed in a cell on three occasions with a “gay/child molester” as discrimination. [Id.]

         Petitioner is living in unconstitutional conditions. [Id.] Specifically, there is no air conditioning; the windows will not open; Petitioner can barely breathe; he cannot sleep; and there is no water so he cannot shower. [Id.] Prison officials are trying to set Petitioner up to false accusations by placing inmates in his cell with him. [Id. at 4.] The facility has a history and custom of abusing inmates; staff abuse inmates for filing lawsuits and grievances. [Id.] Petitioner further contends that the courts are trying to make it look like Petitioner has a mental issue, even though he does not. [Id.] Prison staff destroy Petitioner's mail and censor and alter his legal mail. [Id.] Petitioner has been denied “all human rights” and has been repeatedly threatened with death. [Id. at 5.] Petitioner describes FCI Edgefield as “America's ‘Abu Ghraib, '” and contends the U.S. prisons are a blight on the United States and offend the Constitution. [Id.] Based on all of these things, Petitioner claims he is entitled to immediate release from the BOP. [Id.]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c) DSC, the undersigned is authorized to review such petitions for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district court. This Court is charged with screening Petitioner's lawsuit to determine if “it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Rule 4, Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the U.S. District Courts (2012); see also Rule 1(b) Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the U.S. District Courts (2012) (a district court may apply these rules to a habeas corpus petition not filed pursuant to § 2254). As a pro se litigant, Petitioner's pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (per curiam). However, even under this less stringent standard, the Petition in this case is subject to summary dismissal. The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).

         DISCUSSION

         Petitioner requests a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, seeking immediate release from BOP custody. [Doc. 2 at 5.] However, despite seeking release from custody and asserting his claims pursuant to § 2241, Petitioner's allegations all relate to the conditions of his confinement, which are not cognizable in a habeas petition.

         District courts are authorized to grant writs of habeas corpus “within their respective jurisdictions.” See 28 U.S.C. § 2241(a). A § 2241 habeas action generally challenges the execution or implementation of a federal prisoner's sentence, such as the BOP's administration of the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program, computation of sentence, prison disciplinary actions, and prison transfers. See Fontanez v. O'Brien, 807 F.3d 84, 87 (4th Cir. 2015); Lagos-M v. Warden of FCI Williamsburg, No. 0:08-2913-HMH-PJG, 2009 WL 1749772, at *2 (D.S.C. June 22, 2009). Further, “it is well established that defendants convicted in federal court are obliged to seek habeas relief from their convictions and sentences through § 2255.” Rice v. Rivera, 617 F.3d 802, 807 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing In re Vial, 115 F.3d 1192, 1194 (4th Cir. 1997) (en banc)).[2]

         Here, Petitioner appears to claim he is entitled to an order releasing him from BOP custody because his life is in “imminent danger” due to various conditions of his confinement that violate his constitutional rights. [See Doc. 2.] To the extent that Petitioner seeks to challenge the conditions of his confinement, however, he must do so in an action filed pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). See, e.g., Hawkins v. Perdue, No. 1:13-cv-214, 2014 WL 1962216, at *2 (N.D. W.Va. May 15, 2014) (explaining challenges to the conditions of confinement are not cognizable under § 2241, but instead must be pursued through a Bivens action or a claim under the APA). “A § 2241 petition is appropriate whenever an inmate challenges the fact or length of his confinement, or an administrative order regarding his good-behavior credits. It is well-established, however, that it may not be used to challenge the inmate's conditions of confinement.” Warman v. Philips, No. 1:08-cv-217, 2009 WL 2705833, at *3 (N.D. W.Va. Aug. 25, 2009), aff'd, 353 Fed.Appx. 859 (4th Cir. 2009) (citing Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499-500 (1973); Moran v. Sondalle, 218 F.3d 647, 649 (7th Cir. 2000)). The Fourth Circuit has explained,

Section 2241 habeas petitions are appropriate when an inmate seeks to challenge “the very fact or duration of his physical imprisonment.” See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973). This Court has not directly addressed whether a § 2241 petition may also be used to challenge conditions of confinement or whether such challenges must be brought as civil rights actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or Bivens. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (providing civil remedy for deprivation of rights under color of law); Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971) (establishing the validity of actions for damages when a federal officer acting under the color of federal authority violates plaintiff's constitutional rights). Nonetheless, courts have generally held that a § 1983 suit or a Bivens action is the appropriate means of challenging conditions of confinement, whereas § 2241 petitions are not. See Braddy v. Wilson, 580 Fed.Appx. 172, 173 (4th Cir. 2014) (deciding that when petitioner alleged constitutional violations “regarding only the conditions of his confinement” not the fact or duration of his sentence, his claims were properly brought under Bivens); Glaus v. Anderson, 408 F.3d 382, 388 (7th Cir. 2005) (holding that filing a § 2241 challenge to a condition of confinement was improper). But see Aamer v. Obama, 742 F.3d 1023, 1032 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (“[O]ne in custody may challenge the conditions of his confinement in a [§ 2241] petition . . . .”).

Rodriguez v. Ratledge, 715 Fed.Appx. 261, 265-66 (4th Cir. 2017) (noting that transfer from one prison to another is not a cognizable § 2241 claim because such a claim challenges the conditions of an inmate's confinement, not its fact or duration).

         Thus, Petitioner's claims concerning conditions at FCI Edgefield are subject to dismissal for failure to state a cognizable claim and without prejudice to Petitioner's right to file a Bivens action relating to his claims.[3]Lewis v. Dorriety, No. 8:12-cv-3257-MGL, 2013 WL 3152372, at *2 (D.S.C. June 18, 2013) (explaining a habeas petitioner's claims concerning his right to access to the court and legal materials, although asserted on a § 2241 form were not cognizable in a § 2241 proceeding) (citing Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 79 (2005) (distinguishing between a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action and a habeas action where “a state prisoner challenges ‘the fact or duration of his confinement' and seeks either ‘immediate release' from prison or the ‘shortening' of his term of confinement”) (citations omitted)); see Lee v. Winston, 717 F.2d 888, 892 (4th Cir. 1983) (recognizing the difference between a habeas action, where the goal is to secure absolute release from custody, and a ยง 1983 action, which provides ...


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