United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JACQUELYN D. AUSTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Edward Stefanski (“Petitioner”), proceeding pro
se, brings this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241. [Doc. 1.] Petitioner, an inmate in the custody
of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) and
presently incarcerated at FCI Estill, in Estill, South
Carolina, seeks injunctive relief, challenging certain
conditions of his confinement. 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.
filed this writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2241, seeking injunctive relief to allow Petitioner to
purchase certain items to be used in his cell for religious
purposes. [Doc. 1 at 8.] Petitioner contends he is being
denied basic religious necessities for his religious
practices, including a medallion, meditation rugs, and LED
candles. [Id. at 2.] Petitioner further contends
that the head chaplain, Mustapha Kulungu, has denied
Petitioner's request to practice his own religion (the
“Three Folds of Linear Dimensions”) because it is
not a bona fide religion. [Id. at 3.] According to
Petitioner, Chaplain Kulungu stated Petitioner could not
practice his beliefs as an individual practitioner and must
instead pick a recognized religion that is not a
“personal concoction.” [Id.] Thus,
Petitioner contends, the BOP is violating Petitioner's
right to freedom of religion. [Id. at 4.] Petitioner
asserts that as a result of the BOP's violation of his
religious freedom, his sentence is being carried out
unlawfully. [Id. at 6-7.] According to Petitioner,
his religious practices do not pose any threat to prison
security, and he should thus be allowed to purchase the same
religious materials as other inmates practicing other
religions. [Id. at 7.] Based on all these
allegations, Petitioner claims he is entitled to injunctive
relief requiring the BOP to allow Petitioner to purchase or
be given religious materials to include meditation rugs, a
medallion, and 3 LED candles to use in his cell.
[Id. at 8.]
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).
seeks injunctive relief related to the exercise of his
religion, and he requests a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2241. However, despite asserting his claims
pursuant to § 2241 and claiming the constitutional
violations make the execution of his sentence unlawful,
Petitioner's allegations all relate to the conditions of
his confinement, which are not cognizable in a habeas
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-cv-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)).
case, Petitioner is not challenging the legality or duration
of his custody. Further, he is not entitled to any relief
under § 2241 “because he is not challenging the
execution of his sentence, such as the administration of
parole, sentence computation by prison officials, or prison
disciplinary actions.” Lagos-M, 2009 WL
1749772, at *2 (citing Manigault v. Lamanna, No.
8:06-cv-047-JFA-BHH, 2006 WL 1328780, at *1 (D.S.C. May 11,
2006). Instead, Petitioner seeks to challenge the conditions
of his confinement, which he must do in an action filed
pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal
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 that
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.
Soudalle, 218 F.3d 647, 649-52 (7th Cir. 2000)).
Importantly, 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).
instant action is properly characterized as a civil suit for
an injunction against federal officials for a constitutional
violation and fails to allege a valid factual basis for a
§ 2241 petition because Petitioner complains about
prison conditions. Pinson, 553 Fed.Appx. at 854
(affirming district court order dismissing a § 2241
petition, noting the case was a challenge to prison
conditions, and not a challenge to the execution of his
sentence). Thus, Petitioner's claims concerning
conditions at FCI Estill related to his religious practices
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. Meeks v.
Mitchell, No. 6:10-cv-1346-RMG-KFM, 2010 WL 4340442, at
*3 (D.S.C. Aug. 30, 2010), Report and Recommendation
adopted by 2010 WL 4320505 (D.S.C. Oct. 26, 2010),
aff'd, 430 Fed.Appx. 219 (4th Cir. 2011)
(dismissing habeas petition without prejude, finding the
court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under § 2241 to
consider petitioner's prison-condition claims). Simply
put, Petitioner has failed to state a cognizable habeas claim
pursuant to § 2241, and the Petition is therefore
subject to summary dismissal.