451 F.3d 1231 (10th Cir. 2006), 05-1383, Wright v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

Docket Nº:05-1383.
Citation:451 F.3d 1231
Party Name:Glenn A. WRIGHT, Petitioner-Appellant, v. FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS and Joe L. Norwood, Respondents-Appellees.
Case Date:July 07, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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451 F.3d 1231 (10th Cir. 2006)

Glenn A. WRIGHT, Petitioner-Appellant,


FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS and Joe L. Norwood, Respondents-Appellees.

No. 05-1383.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.

July 7, 2006


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David Alan Lewis, Brooklyn, NY, (Colleen B. Scissors, Offices of Colleen B. Scissors, LLC, Grand Junction, CO, on the briefs), appearing for Appellant.

Jerry N. Jones, Assistant United States Attorney, (William J. Leone, United States Attorney, with him on the brief), Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Colorado, Denver, CO, appearing for Appellees.

Mary Price, Esq., General Counsel, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Denver, CO, and Philip A. Cherner, Esq., Law Office Of Philip A. Cherner, Washington, DC, for Amicus Curiae for Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

Before TACHA, Chief Circuit Judge, BARRETT, Senior Circuit Judge, and O'BRIEN, Circuit Judge.

TACHA, Chief Circuit Judge.

In 1996, Petitioner-Appellant Glenn Wright was convicted of interstate transportation of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A and sentenced to 168 months' imprisonment; he began serving his sentence on May 24, 1996. Mr. Wright will not be incarcerated for the entire 168 months, however, and the question this appeal raises is how early he will be released. Based on its interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b), the federal statute governing the calculation of credit for good conduct in prison, the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") predicts that Mr. Wright will earn 635 days of good time credit. Under Mr. Wright's interpretation of the statute, he predicts that he will earn 729 days of good time credit. In December 2004, he petitioned the District Court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to dispute BOP's method of calculation. The District Court denied his petition; we take jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1291 and 2253(a) and AFFIRM.


This appeal presents a straightforward case of statutory interpretation. The statute at issue, 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b), allows a prisoner to earn credit toward the service of his sentence for exemplary conduct in prison. The provision provides in relevant part:

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[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(b)(1) (emphasis added). The BOP issued a regulation, after notice and comment, see 5 U.S.C. § 553, interpreting the emphasized portion of the statute. The regulation provides that the BOP will "award 54 days credit toward service of sentence . . . for each year served." 28 C.F.R. § 523.20(a) (emphasis added). The BOP has also issued, as part of its Sentence Computation Manual, Program Statement 5880.28, which provides a formula for calculating good-time credit on sentences exceeding a year and a day. As the Seventh Circuit has explained:

[The] 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.

White v. Scibana, 390 F.3d 997, 1000 (7th Cir.2004), cert denied, White v. Hobart, --- U.S. ----, 125 S.Ct. 2921, 2922, 162 L.Ed.2d 297 (2005). In other words, the BOP reads the statute as mandating good time credits to be calculated based on the amount of time served in prison.

Mr. Wright argues, however, that § 3624(b)(1) unambiguously requires good time credit to be calculated based upon the sentence imposed, as opposed to the time served. Therefore, according to Mr. Wright, he is entitled to fifty-four days of good-time credit for each of the fourteen years to which he was sentenced, minus any deductions for disciplinary violations.


Because this case involves an administrative agency's construction of a statute, our analysis is governed by Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 104 S.Ct. 2778, 81 L.Ed.2d 694 (1984). Under Chevron, we first determine "whether Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue." Id. at 842, 104 S.Ct. 2778. If so, our inquiry is at an end; "the court 'must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.' " Food and Drug Admin. v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 529 U.S. 120, 132, 120 S.Ct. 1291, 146 L.Ed.2d 121 (2000) (quoting Chevron, 467 U.S. at 843, 104 S.Ct. 2778). If, on the other hand, the statute is silent or ambiguous on the issue, we will determine whether the agency's view is based on a permissible construction of the statute. Chevron, 467 U.S. at 843, 104 S.Ct. 2778.

We review issues of statutory construction de novo. Robbins v. Chronister, 435 F.3d 1238, 1240 (10th Cir. 2006) (en banc).

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" '[O]ur task is to interpret the words of the statute in light of the purposes Congress sought to serve.' " Hain v. Mullin, 436 F.3d 1168, 1176 (10th Cir.2006) (en banc) (quoting Dickerson v. New Banner Inst., Inc., 460 U.S. 103, 118, 103 S.Ct. 986, 74 L.Ed.2d 845 (1983)). Our starting point, as always, is the language employed by Congress. Id. We read the words of the statute "in their context and with a view to their place in the overall statutory scheme." Brown & Williamson, 529 U.S. at 132-133, 120 S.Ct. 1291; Hain, 436 F.3d at 1177.

Our focus in this case is directed at the meaning of "term of imprisonment." The phrase has inconsistent meanings throughout § 3624. For example, § 3624(a) states that "[a] prisoner shall be released by the [BOP] 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)." Here, "term of imprisonment" plainly refers to the "sentence imposed" since the BOP is instructed to deduct time credited from the prisoner's sentence. Perez-Olivo v. Chavez, 394 F.3d 45, 49 (1st Cir. 2005). In § 3624(d), however, the same phrase means "time served." That section provides that "[u]pon the release of a prisoner on the expiration of the prisoner's term of imprisonment, the [BOP] shall furnish the prisoner with [suitable clothing, an amount of money not to exceed $500, and transportation]." 18 U.S.C. § 3624(d). Indeed, "[i]t would make no sense to provide [a prisoner] these amenities at a time when the prisoner's original imposed sentence had expired—a date that would obviously occur after the prisoner had been released based on good time credits." Perez-Olivo, 394 F.3d at 49 (quoting Loeffler v. Bureau of Prisons, No. 04-4627, 2004 WL 2417805, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 29, 2004)).

The phrase is also used three times in the first sentence of § 3624(b)(1). The provision applies to a prisoner "serving a term of imprisonment of more than 1 year other than a term of imprisonment for the duration of the prisoner's life." 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b)(1) (emphasis added). Here, the phrase means "sentence imposed" since the statute only applies to prisoners who have been sentenced to more than one year's imprisonment and less than life. Yi v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 412 F.3d 526, 531 (4th Cir. 2005). The BOP must be able to determine, on the first day the...

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