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March 24, 2023: COMPASSIONATE RELEASE, COVID-19, and BOP BLOG


Fast Facts (Full BOP stats can be found here)


Confirmed active cases at 74 BOP facilities and 8 RRCs

Currently positive-testing inmates: 191 (down from 235) Currently positive-testing staff: 47 (down from 48) Recovered inmates currently in BOP: 45,031 (down 45,047) Recovered staff: 15,219 (up from 15,218)


Institutions with the largest number of currently positive-testing inmates:

Fort Worth FMC: 10

Yazoo City Medium FCI: 10:

Carswell FMC: 9


Institutions with the largest number of currently positive-testing staff:

Terminal Island FCI: 6 (unchanged)

Devens FMC: 4 (unchanged)

Grand Prairie: 3 (unchanged)


System-wide testing results: Presently, BOP has 145,288 federal inmates in BOP-managed institutions and 13,239 in community-based facilities. Today's stats: Completed tests: 128,655 (unchanged) Positive tests: 55,303 (unchanged)


Total vaccine doses administered: 349,229 (up from 349,098)


Case Note: Court dismisses § 2241 habeas petition holding that habeas review is not available to address conditions of confinement claims based on the COVID-19 pandemic...


In Medina v. Berkholz, 2023 WL 2614515 (C.D.Cal. March 23, 2023) (Fairbank, D.J.), the court dismissed inmate's § 2241 petition, holding that habeas review is not available to conditions of confinement claims based upon the COVID-19 pandemic, explaining: "B. The Court Lacks Jurisdiction Over a Request for Compassionate Release. Petitioner seeks immediate release from custody based on his medical conditions and exposure to various health and safety risks including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Dkt. No. 1 at 2-4, 6.] Although the Petition is labeled as a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, to the extent that it is actually a disguised motion for compassionate release, it is not properly before this Court.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A), all motions for sentencing reductions, including motions for compassionate release, must be filed in the sentencing court. See United States v. Ono, 72 F.3d 101, 102 (9th Cir. 1995) (a motion under Section 3582(c) “is undoubtedly a step in the criminal case” that “requires the [sentencing] court to reexamine the original sentence” (citation omitted)); see also United States v. Raia, 954 F.3d 594, 595 (3d Cir. 2020) (“Section 3582's text requires those motions to be addressed to the sentencing court, a point several Circuits have noted ....”); Bolden v. Ponce, No. CV 20-3870-JFW (MAA), 2020 WL 2097751, at *2 (C.D. Cal. May 1, 2020) (district court lacks authority to grant release under § 3582(c)(1)(A) based on conditions caused by COVID-19 pandemic because petition was not filed in sentencing court); Mitchell v. Engleman, No. CV 21-06488-JWH (JEM), 2021 WL 4641945, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 9, 2021) (same); Thody v. Swain, No. CV 19-09641-PA (DFM), 2019 WL 7842560, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 26, 2019) (“[B]y its plain language, 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) requires Petitioner to move for reduction in the sentencing court.”); Mohrbacher v. Ponce, No. CV 18-00513-DMG (GJS), 2019 WL 161727, at *1 & n.1 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 10, 2019) (same). As set forth above, Petitioner was sentenced in the Southern District of Florida in United States v. Mauricio Martinez Medina, 4:17-cr-10003-KMM. If Petitioner seeks compassionate release under Section 3582(c), he must submit a motion to the sentencing court.5

C. Petitioner's Claims Are Not Cognizable on Habeas Review A habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 is a vehicle for a federal prisoner to challenge to the execution of his sentence. Hernandez, 204 F.3d at 864. Challenges to a prisoner's conditions of confinement, however, must be brought in a civil rights complaint rather than a habeas corpus petition. See Badea v. Cox, 931 F.2d 573, 574 (9th Cir. 1991); see also Hill v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 573, 579 (2006) (“[a]n inmate's challenge to the circumstances of his confinement” must be brought through a civil rights action); Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750 (2004) (“Challenges to the validity of any confinement or to particulars affecting its duration are the province of habeas corpus ... ; requests for relief turning on circumstances of confinement may be presented in a § 1983 action.”) (citation omitted). A civil rights action is the “proper remedy” for a prisoner “who is making a constitutional challenge to the conditions of his prison life, but not to the fact or length of his custody.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499 (1973). “[C]onstitutional claims that merely challenge the conditions of a prisoner's confinement, whether the inmate seeks monetary or injunctive relief, fall outside of that core [of habeas relief]” and, instead, should be brought as a civil rights claim “in the first instance.” Nelson v. Campbell, 541 U.S. 637, 643 (2004).

Since COVID-19 first appeared, prisoners have attempted to obtain habeas relief based on the pandemic. When the Ninth Circuit was presented with the issue of whether habeas relief is available for claims that COVID-19 conditions at federal prisons give rise to unconstitutional conditions of confinement, it declined to resolve the issue. See Roman v. Wolf, 977 F.3d 935, 941-42 (9th Cir. 2020) (per curiam) (“[T]he Government argues that a district court on habeas review may not order reductions in the number of detainees held at a facility, or any other injunctive relief, to remedy unconstitutional conditions of confinement. We need not reach that issue ...”).

In the absence of Circuit precedent, most district courts within the Ninth Circuit have concluded that such a claim is not cognizable in habeas review even when the remedy sought is immediate release. See Camillo-Amisano v. Ponce, 2021 WL 3377237, at *4 (C.D. Cal. June 22, 2021) (collecting cases); see also Wilson v. Ponce, 465 F. Supp. 3d 1037, 1049 (C.D. Cal. 2020) (the district court concluded that release based on COVID-19 was not cognizable in habeas based on an extensive analysis of Supreme Court cases and statutory analysis.); Bruno v. Warden, No. CV 20-6390 JFW (PVC), 2021 WL 2323941, at *6 (C.D. Cal. May 14, 2021), report and recommendation adopted, No. CV 20-6390 JFW (PVC), 2021 WL 2313657 (C.D. Cal. June 7, 2021) (acknowledging that “the majority of district courts within the Ninth Circuit have ... found that claims brought by federal prisoners or detainees seeking release from custody due to the COVID-19 pandemic are not cognizable on habeas review.”). Other district courts have found that COVID conditions of confinement claims can be cognizable on habeas review. See, e.g., Torres v. Milusnic, 472 F. Supp. 3d 713, 724-26 (C.D. Cal. 2020) (finding that petitioner's COVID-related claim challenged “fact of confinement” for habeas purposes).

The Court finds the cases concluding that habeas review is not available to conditions of confinement claims based upon the COVID-19 pandemic to be more persuasive. Here, Petitioner's claims are based on the alleged failure to provide him with adequate medical treatment and take certain health and safety precautions related to preventing the risk of contracting COVID-19 at FCI Lompoc. [Dkt. No. 1 at 2-4.] These are classic conditions of confinement claims that do not implicate the fact or duration of Petitioner's confinement despite his requested remedy of release from custody. As such, his allegations sound in civil rights, not in habeas, and the Court declines to exercise its discretion to construe the Petition as a civil rights complaint. Bolden, 2020 WL 2097751, at *2 & n.1; accord Smith v. Von Blanckensee, No. CV 20-4642-JVS (JEM), 2020 WL 4370954, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Jul. 2, 2020). If Petitioner seeks to challenge his conditions of confinement or seeks damages for civil rights violations, his claims are properly brought pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971)."

Death Watch (Note: The BOP press website announces BOP COVID-related deaths here.) Today, the BOP announced no new COVID-related deaths, leaving the total number of inmate COVID-related deaths at 314. Eleven of the inmates died while on home confinement. Staff deaths remain at 7.

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