Margiotta v. Brennan, 91-1299

Decision Date10 September 1992
Docket NumberNo. 91-1299,91-1299
Citation976 F.2d 735
PartiesNOTICE: Seventh Circuit Rule 53(b)(2) states unpublished orders shall not be cited or used as precedent except to support a claim of res judicata, collateral estoppel or law of the case in any federal court within the circuit. Joseph A. MARGIOTTA, Petitioner-Appellant, v. E.J. BRENNAN, Warden, F.C.I. Oxford, Respondent-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

Before CUMMINGS, POSNER and MANION, Circuit Judges.


Joseph A. Margiotta pleaded guilty to several counts of violating federal counterfeiting statutes. The district court sentenced Margiotta to a total of twenty-five years' imprisonment. During his initial incarceration in Monroe County Jail, Margiotta worked as an orderly but was denied extra good time credit for this work. Federal law bars such credit in the case of federal prisoners held in non-federal facilities unless the prisoner gets a recommendation due to meritorious work performance. 28 C.F.R. § 523.17(d). Margiotta received no such recommendation and thus was denied extra good time credit.

Margiotta filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. In his petition, he challenged the denial of good time credits by the Bureau of Prisons. More specifically, Margiotta claimed that the Bureau's policy violated the equal protection component of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment because it treated prisoners held at non-federal facilities differently than those held at federal facilities. We affirm for the reasons stated in the attached order of the district court.





Joseph A. Margiotta, Petitioner,


E.J. Brennan, Warden, F.C.I. Oxford, Respondent.



Jan. 25, 1991.

This is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Petitioner, an inmate at the Oxford Correctional Institution at Oxford, Wisconsin, claims that he is in custody in violation of the laws or Constitution of the United States. 28 U.S. § 2241. Petitioner has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

In his petition and attached exhibits, petitioner alleges the following facts.

Allegations of Fact

On June 30, 1986, petitioner was arrested and charged with violations of federal counterfeiting statutes. On December 8, 1986, he pleaded guilty to several counts in satisfaction of all charges contained in the indictment. On February 7, 1987, petitioner was sentenced to a prison term of twenty-five years.

From June 30, 1986 through July 9, 1987, petitioner was incarcerated at the Monroe County Jail in Rochester, New York. 1 While there, petitioner was employed as an orderly. The Attorney General granted petitioner "jail credit" on his sentence for the time he spent in custody at the Monroe County Jail. However, petitioner was not recommended for "extra good time" status until July 10, 1987, when he was incarcerated and working as a cook at the Sandstone federal correctional institution. Petitioner has exhausted his administrative remedies concerning his claim for "extra good time" credit.


Petitioner contends that respondents' failure to credit him with extra good time for the period of his incarceration at the Monroe County Jail violates his rights under the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment. Petitioner is attacking the constitutionality of the federal regulations or statutes which deny him "extra good time" credit from June 30, 1986 until July 10, 1987. Under the relevant statutes and regulations, extra good time is available to all working federal inmates whether they are housed in federal or non-federal facilities. However, the government has qualified the extra good time benefit by requiring that inmates in a non-federal institution first obtain the recommendation of a responsible person employed in that institution. Inmates who are housed in federal facilities and are on work or study release programs are automatically eligible for extra good time credit. Petitioner's complaint raises the issue whether a rational justification exists for the additional requirement placed on prisoners employed in non-federal facilities. 2

Petitioner's accumulation of good time and extra good time credits is governed by 18 U.S.C. §§ 4161 and 4162 and 28 C.F.R. §§ 523.1-523.17. 3 Section 4161 creates "statutory good time" and gives prisoners serving a definite sentence the right to a deduction of up to ten days for each month of time served, depending on the length of the sentence. LaMagna v. United States Bureau of Prisons, 494 F.Supp. 189, 191 (D.Conn.1980); 28 C.F.R. § 523.1(a). The actual granting of statutory good time depends upon the good conduct of the inmate and is within the discretion of prison authorities. Id. Section 4162 gives the Attorney General, and through him or her the Bureau of Prisons, discretion to award "extra good time" 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." Id. A prisoner housed in a federal facility automatically earns extra good time while participating in work or study release programs, although such good time is subject to disallowance. 28 C.F.R. § 523.12. A working prisoner confined in a non-federal facility may earn extra good time if recommended by "a responsible person employed by the non-federal facility" and approved by federal staff. 28 C.F.R. § 523.17(d). Although 28 C.F.R. § 523.17(1) provides that a "pretrial detainee may not earn good time while in pretrial status," a pretrial detainee may be recommended for good time credit.

The purpose of statutory good time is "to aid the rehabilitative process and to mitigate the severity of punishment by rewarding a prisoner for his good conduct." LaMagna, 494 F.Supp. at 191 (quoting DeSimone v. Norton, 404 F.Supp. 964, 967 (D.Conn.1975)); see also Short v. United States, 344 F.2d 550, 553-54 (D.C.Cir.1965) (statutory good time is important part of rehabilitative effort of the federal prisons). The congressional intent behind the extra good time statute was "to encourage prisoners to accomplish work which would simultaneously benefit the penal institution and promote the rehabilitation of the prisoner." Cohen v. Ciccone, 318 F.Supp. 831, 836 (W.D.Mo.1970); see also LaMagna, 494 F.Supp. at 192.

In analyzing an equal protection claim, a court must determine first whether the claim involves a suspect class or a fundamental right. Pryor v. Brennan, 914 F.2d 921, 923 (7th Cir.1990). This case involves neither. Neither prisoners in general nor prisoners housed in non-federal facilities in particular constitute a suspect classification and there is no fundamental right to be conditionally released before expiration of a valid sentence. Thus, I must apply the rational basis test to the different treatment afforded working prisoners housed in non-federal facilities and those housed in federal facilities, and uphold the statutory scheme if "the classification drawn by the statute is rationally related to a legitimate state interest." Id.; see also McGinnis v. Royster, 410 U.S. 263, 270 (1973).

In McGinnis, the United States Supreme Court considered whether a state statutory scheme that denied inmates good time credit for presentence incarceration in county jails violated the equal protection clause. The statutory scheme allowed prisoners who made bail prior to trial to earn good time credit for their entire period of incarceration before they began their incarceration in a state facility after sentencing. In contrast, the prisoners who served part of their sentence in city or county jails could not earn good time credit until they were transferred to a state institution after sentencing.

Recognizing the rehabilitative purpose underlying the good time statutes, the Court found a rational justification for refusing to award good time credit for pretrial detainees in city and county facilities where no systematic rehabilitative programs existed and where state officials could not evaluate a prisoner's conduct. The Court upheld the challenged classification as rationally promoting the state's legitimate goal of affording...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT