LaMagna v. United States Bureau of Prisons, Civ. No. B 79-270.

Decision Date16 July 1980
Docket NumberCiv. No. B 79-270.
PartiesLeonard Joseph LaMAGNA et al., Petitioners, v. UNITED STATES BUREAU OF PRISONS et al., Respondents.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut

Leonard Joseph Lamagna, et al., pro se and Kevan Acton, Asst. Federal Public Defender, New Haven, Conn., for petitioners.

Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Atty., Frank H. Santoro, Asst. U.S. Atty., New Haven, Conn., for respondents.


EGINTON, District Judge.

Petitioners, Leonard Joseph LaMagna, John Priore and Peter Erich Marschner,1 are inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, currently serving five year sentences.2 They bring this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 22413 to challenge the method used by the Bureau of Prisons to compute the sentences of prisoners serving five to ten year terms who earn "extra good time," 18 U.S.C. § 4162,4 by working at the institution or by performing "meritorious" service.


The issue raised by petitioners involves construction of the provisions of 18 U.S.C. §§ 4161 et seq., concerning sentence computation and good time, in conjunction with the mandate of 18 U.S.C. § 4206(d), which presumptively grants a parole to inmates serving sentences of five years or more. Petitioners contend that in the enactment of the § 4206(d) "mandatory" parole date in 1976, Congress repealed by implication § 4161, the statute which provides for an award of "statutory" good time to reduce the time a prisoner serves. Consequently, the petitioners argue, the Bureau of Prisons should deduct § 4162 "extra good time" from the § 4206(d) mandatory parole date, instead of deducting it from the full term date less statutory good time, as is the current practice. In order to understand petitioners' argument, it is necessary to review the statutory schemes involved in computing the time an inmate should serve and in awarding parole.

The sentence computation statute, 18 U.S.C. § 4163, provides that "a prisoner shall be released at the expiration of his term of sentence less the time deducted for good conduct."5 A prisoner released pursuant to § 4163 is considered a mandatory releasee. Such a prisoner is entitled, as a matter of right, to release at the expiration of his full term less earned good time deductions; there is no discretion in the Bureau of Prisons to deny such release. Weber v. Willingham, 356 F.2d 933 (10th Cir.) cert. denied, 384 U.S. 991, 86 S.Ct. 1897, 16 L.Ed.2d 1008 (1966). See also Birch v. Anderson, 358 F.2d 520 (D.C.Cir. 1965); United States ex rel. Carioscia v. Meisner, 331 F.Supp. 635 (N.D.Ill. 1971). Section 4163, however, is designed only to reduce the period of incarceration; it does not affect the sentence itself. Bell v. Putman, 548 F.2d 749 (8th Cir.) cert. denied, 431 U.S. 958, 97 S.Ct. 2684, 53 L.Ed.2d 277 (1977); Humphrey v. United States Board of Parole, 438 F.2d 1214 (3d Cir. 1971). Thus, mandatory releasees, though not on parole, are subject to supervision under § 4164 "as if . . . on parole until the expiration of the maximum term or terms of the sentence less one hundred and eighty days."6 If a mandatory releasee violates any of the conditions of his release during this period of parole supervision, the release can be revoked and the inmate can be reincarcerated for the remainder of the sentence.

The mandatory release date results from the deduction of one or both of two distinct types of "good time" from the full term of the commitment sentence(s). Section 4161 creates what is known as "statutory good time," or what petitioners refer to as "good conduct time."7 Statutory good time is designed "to aid the rehabilitative process and to mitigate the severity of punishment by rewarding a prisoner for his good conduct." DeSimone v. Norton, 404 F.Supp. 964, 967 (D.Conn. 1975). See also Short v. United States, 344 F.2d 550 (D.C. Cir. 1965). It gives a prisoner serving a definite sentence the right to a deduction of up to ten days for each month of time served, with the size of the award varying with the length of the sentence. In this case, petitioners are entitled to eight days of good time for each month served.

In the initial administrative calculation of a mandatory release date, the Bureau of Prisons presumes that the prisoner will be awarded statutory good time pursuant to § 4161. The actual granting of statutory good time credits, however, depends upon the good conduct of the inmate, and is within the discretion of the prison authorities. The statute expressly provides that a prisoner "shall be entitled to a deduction from the term of his sentence" if that inmate's "record of conduct shows that he has faithfully observed all the rules and has not been subjected to punishment . . .." (Emphasis added.) Similarly, statutory good time is subject to forfeiture in whole or in part for infractions of disciplinary rules at any time during incarceration. It therefore serves as the inmate's incentive to continue his good conduct during his imprisonment.

The second type of good time, that awarded pursuant to § 4162, gives the Attorney General, and through him the Bureau of Prisons, discretion to award good time deductions of up to five days per month for "employment in an industry or camp" or as a reward for "performing exceptionally meritorious service or performing duties of outstanding importance in connection with institutional operations."8 The extra good time statute is designed to encourage prisoners to accomplish work which will simultaneously benefit the institution and promote the inmate's rehabilitation. Cohen v. Ciccone, 318 F.Supp. 831 (W.D.Mo. 1970).

Unlike statutory good time, the size of the extra good time award varies with the service performed, not with the length of the sentence. Moreover, at the initial calculation of a mandatory release date, the Bureau of Prisons does not presume that extra good time will be awarded. Extra good time is deducted from the mandatory release date after the additional good time has been earned and the Attorney General has determined that it is deserved. The awarding of extra good time during any given month during which an inmate is eligible for extra good time, of course, is conditioned upon good conduct, and the Bureau can withhold a month's award of extra good time for disciplinary reasons. 28 C.F.R. §§ 523.10 et seq. See, e. g., United States ex rel. Colen v. Norton, 335 F.Supp. 1316 (D.Conn. 1972); Cohen v. Ciccone, supra. Once awarded, however, extra good time cannot be forfeited, regardless of the inmate's institutional behavior. 28 C.F.R. § 523.17(p), (q).

Many federal prisoners do not serve to the mandatory release date because they are paroled by the Parole Commission, some time after the expiration of one-third of the commitment term.9 In 1976, Congress enacted the Parole Commission and Reorganization Act (PCRA), which overhauled the parole system, and instituted a set of mechanical parole guidelines which the Commission now applies to determine an appropriate parole date. In some cases, however, the Commission decides not to parole an eligible offender. For such inmates who are serving terms of five years or more, the PCRA included a provision for presumptive or mandatory parole at the expiration of two-thirds of the sentence(s). 18 U.S.C. § 4206(d).10 Congress enacted this mandatory parole11 "to insure at least some minimum period of parole supervision for all prisoners with long sentences . . . so that parole supervision is part of their transmission from the institutional life of imprisonment to living in the community. . . ." H.R.Rep.No.5727, 80th Cong., 1st Sess. reprinted in 1976 U.S.Code Cong. and Admin.News, pp. 335, 360.


It is petitioners' assertion that in the creation of mandatory parole under § 4206(d), Congress repealed by implication the provisions of §§ 4161 and 4163 concerning sentence computation and good time credits, as they are applied to prisoners serving sentences between five and ten years, since mandatory parole under § 4206(d) precedes mandatory release under §§ 4161 and 4163. This implied repeal is limited to those prisoners serving five to ten year sentences, because at and above ten years, the application of either § 4161 or 4206(d) leads to the same release date.

Petitioners argue that this Court must imply such a repeal because of an irreconcilable inconsistency between §§ 4161 and 4206(d). Though both provisions allegedly serve the same purpose—that of providing some supervision of prisoners during the transition from institutional to community life — the two sections lead to different release dates, in the cases of the petitioners. Since § 4206(d) postdates § 4161, petitioners conclude that § 4206(d) must repeal § 4161, to the extent of the alleged inconsistency.

As a result of the implied repeal, petitioners argue, the Bureau of Prisons should deduct any extra good time awarded pursuant to § 4162 from the mandatory parole date (§ 4206(d)) rather than from the mandatory release date (§ 4163). The current practice of deducting extra good time from the mandatory release date (full term less statutory good time, § 4163), they contend, improperly deprives an inmate of any benefit from the vested, earned extra good time, which petitioners assert is remuneration for their work in the institution.


Petitioners' argument, while ingenious, proceeds from the fundamentally erroneous assumption that the statutory provisions concerning sentence computation and good time and those concerning parole are an integrated whole. Though both the method of computing sentences and awarding good time and the practice of granting parole affect the duration of an offender's incarceration, and could therefore be considered as parts of an integrated statute, good time and parole serve fundamentally different purposes and therefore have historically been conceived of and treated as distinct statutory schemes.12


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