390 F.3d 997 (7th Cir. 2004), 04-2410, White v. Scibana

Docket Nº:04-2410.
Citation:390 F.3d 997
Party Name:Yancey Lamarr WHITE, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Joseph SCIBANA, Respondent-Appellant.
Case Date:December 02, 2004
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 997

390 F.3d 997 (7th Cir. 2004)

Yancey Lamarr WHITE, Petitioner-Appellee,

v.

Joseph SCIBANA, Respondent-Appellant.

No. 04-2410.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

December 2, 2004

Argued Sept. 9, 2004

Page 998

Emily M. Feinstein (argued), Quarles & Brady, Madison, WI, for Petitioner-Appellee.

Steven Pray O'Connor (argued), Office of the United States Attorney, Madison, WI, for Respondent-Appellant.

Before EASTERBROOK, EVANS and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

SYKES, Circuit Judge.

This appeal presents a question of statutory interpretation involving the calculation of "good-time credit" for prisoners serving federal sentences. Under the good-time statute, an eligible prisoner may receive credit "beyond the time served, of up to 54 days at the end of each year of the prisoner's term of imprisonment, beginning at the end of the first year of the term," subject to the Bureau of Prisons' determination that "during that year, the prisoner has displayed exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations." 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b) (1). Yancey White's behavior has been exemplary in all but one of his years behind bars: after serving eight years of his ten-year sentence for distribution of cocaine base, he is entitled to all but ten days of the good-time credit allowed him under the statute. The question is, how much time is that?

The Bureau of Prisons interprets the good-time statute as allowing an award of up to fifty-four days of credit for each year the inmate actually serves in prison. The term an inmate actually serves is not the term imposed by the court but something less; annual good-time awards operate to incrementally reduce the term of imprisonment imposed in the sentence. The statutory good-time calculation is thus (according to the Bureau's interpretation) not fifty-four days times the number of years imposed but fifty-four days for each year actually served. According to this method of calculation, the Bureau plans to release White on March 3, 2005.

White contends that the good-time statute unambiguously entitles inmates to fifty-four days of credit for each year of the sentence imposed, minus any deductions for disciplinary violations. According to this method of calculation, White believes he is entitled to be released on December 23, 2004. He petitioned for relief under 18 U.S.C. § 2241. The district court agreed with White's interpretation of § 3624(b) (1) and ordered his release date recalculated.

Page 999

White v. Scibana, 314 F.Supp.2d 834 (W.D.Wis.2004). We reverse.

I. Background

In August 1996 Yancey White was sentenced by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois to 120 months in prison for three counts of distributing cocaine base. He is serving that sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oxford, Wisconsin. In March 2003 White filed a request for administrative remedy asserting that his good-time credit had been miscalculated. He claimed entitlement to fifty-four days of good-time credit for each year of the ten-year sentence imposed by the court, or a total of 540 days. The warden denied the request, citing § 3624(b) and explaining that the statute allowed inmates to earn fifty-four days of good conduct time for each year served, not each year of the sentence imposed. The warden told White that because he would not be in service of the full ten-year sentence, his good-time credit could not be calculated by simply multiplying fifty-four by ten. Applying a formula the Bureau uses to calculate good-time credit on the basis of time served, the warden informed White that he was entitled to 470 days of good-time credit (later reduced by ten days for a disciplinary infraction). White appealed to the regional and central offices of the Bureau, both of which denied relief.

White filed a habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The district court granted relief, concluding that " § 3624(b) is unambiguous: 'term of imprisonment' means 'sentence imposed.' Therefore, the bureau must calculate an inmate's good conduct time on the basis of his sentence rather than on the time he has served." White, 314 F.Supp.2d at 836. The court ordered Warden Joseph Scibana to recalculate White's release date. The warden appealed.

II. Discussion

The federal prisoner "good-time" statute provides, in pertinent part:

(a) Date of release.--A prisoner shall be released by the Bureau of Prisons on the date of the expiration of the prisoner's term of imprisonment, less any time credited toward the service of the prisoner's sentence as provided in subsection (b).

(b) Credit toward service of sentence for satisfactory behavior.--

(1) [A] prisoner who is serving a term of imprisonment of more than 1 year other than a term of imprisonment for the duration of the prisoner's life, may receive credit toward the service of the prisoner's sentence, beyond the time served, of up to 54 days at the end of each year of the prisoner's term of imprisonment, beginning at the end of the first year of the term, subject to determination by the Bureau of Prisons that, during that year, the prisoner has displayed exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations.

....

[C]redit for the last year or portion of a year of the term of imprisonment shall be prorated and credited within the last six weeks of the sentence.

18 U.S.C. § 3624 (emphasis added).

The Bureau has promulgated a rule reflecting its interpretation of the good-time statute: "[p]ursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b)... an inmate earns 54 days credit toward service of sentence (good conduct time credit) for each year served." 28 C.F.R. § 523.20 (emphasis added). The Bureau has also issued, as part of its Sentence Computation Manual, Program Statement 5880.28, which depicts a formula addressing

Page 1000

the problem of calculating good-time credit on sentences of a year and a day and provides examples of the partial-year proration at the end of a sentence.

The Bureau's proration and year-and-a-day formula is based on the premise that for every day a prisoner serves on good behavior, he may receive a certain amount of credit toward the service of his sentence, up to a total of fifty-four days for each full year. Thus, under the Bureau's formula, a prisoner earns .148 days' credit for each day served on good behavior (54 / 365 = .148), and for ease of administration the credit is awarded only in whole day amounts. Recognizing that most sentences will end in a partial year, the Bureau's formula provides that the maximum available credit for that partial year must be such that the number of days actually served will entitle the prisoner (on the .148-per-day basis) to a credit that when added to the time served equals the time remaining on the sentence. 1

When an agency interprets a statute it administers, judicial review is normally deferential. "We have long since recognized that considerable weight should be accorded to an executive department's construction of a statutory scheme it is entrusted to administer." Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Res. Def. Council, 467 U.S. 837, 844, 104 S.Ct. 2778, 81 L.Ed.2d 694 (1984). But the threshold question before deferential review is triggered is "whether Congress has directly spoken to...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP