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Tanner v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

May 17, 2006

ALGIENON TANNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document Nos. 2, 3

MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION*fn1

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiff is a Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate. On February 15, 2006, the defendant transferred the plaintiff from Federal Correctional Institution ("FCI") Fairton, New Jersey to United States Penitentiary ("USP") Leavenworth, Kansas. The plaintiff brings this suit, asking the court to compel the defendant*fn2 to return the plaintiff to Fairton, alleging that a permanent transfer will deprive him of participation in the vocational training programs at Fairton. Before the court are the plaintiff's motions for a temporary restraining order ("TRO") and a preliminary injunction ("PI"), as well as the defendant's motion to dismiss. The court now turns to the plaintiff's motions.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual History

The plaintiff has been in the federal prison system for more than 20 years. Pl.'s Mot. for TRO ("Pl.'s Mot.") at 4. Since January 4, 2001, the plaintiff has been incarcerated at Fairton, and his release is scheduled to occur on September 29, 2008. Id. at 2. To prepare for re-entry into society, the plaintiff sought educational and vocational training at Fairton by enrolling in the aquaculture program. Id. at 2-4.

At the time of his transfer, the plaintiff had completed eight months of the two-year aquaculture program. Id. at 3. He also worked to qualify for a cable technician program. Id. The cable technician program requires participants to have a Grade 1 pay scale rating. Id. at 2-3. For two years, the plaintiff worked to progress through the pay scale from Grade 4 to Grade 1 so that he could earn a place in the program. Id. at 3.

On February 9, 2006, the defendant's staff informed the plaintiff that he was subject to an immediate transfer to Leavenworth. Id. at 5. The plaintiff's family requested the assistance of Paul C. Kurtz, Executive Director of Federal Inmate Advocates, to prevent the plaintiff's transfer. Id. at 5. Kurtz contacted Tom Washburn, Chief of Correctional Programs, to request the reversal of the defendant's decision to transfer the plaintiff. Id. at 5. On February 13, 2006, Washburn rejected this request, informing Kurtz that the inmate transfer was routine, and that the plaintiff could request transfer back to Fairton through the Inmate Administrative Remedy process. Id. at 5. Kurtz then sent a letter to the Bureau of Prison's regional director and requested that the defendant reverse the plaintiff's transfer. Id. at 5.

On February 15, 2006, the defendant transferred the plaintiff to Leavenworth. Def.'s Opp'n to Pl's Mot. ("Def.'s Opp'n") at 1. On March 16, 2006, Kurtz received a letter from the warden at Fairton, which stated that the transfer to Leavenworth "was not punitive or disciplinary in nature and was just one of many transfers approved in an effort to manage the population at these facilities." Id. at 6. The warden explained that those subject to a transfer were medium security inmates with release dates in excess of one year, and that individuals whose release residences were closer to Leavenworth received "preferential consideration." Id. at 6. He also told Kurtz to "[r]est assured that work opportunities, as well as education and vocational training programs, to assist [the plaintiff] with his re-entry initiatives are available at USP Leavenworth." Id., Ex. 3. Because the plaintiff has approximately 30 months left in his sentence and will serve the last six months at a halfway house, the plaintiff asserts that "unless he is immediately returned to FCI Fairton and re-enrolled in the Aquaculture and Cable programs he will lose any possibility of program completion prior to his scheduled release date." Id. at 4 n.1.

B. Procedural History

On March 21, 2006, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant and brought these motions for injunctive relief pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3626.*fn3 Alleging that his vocational training constitutes a protected liberty interest, the plaintiff claims that the defendant deprived him of that interest in violation of constitutional due process and equal protection. Id. at 14-18. The defendant opposes the motion on the grounds that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the defendant is immune from suit. Def.'s Opp'n at 1-2. The defendant also asserts that the plaintiff has no liberty interest in vocational training and, therefore, the plaintiff has suffered no constitutional violation. Id. at 4-8. On March 29, 2006, in addition to opposing the plaintiff's motion, the defendant brought a motion to dismiss. The court now turns to the plaintiff's motion.

III. ANALYSIS

A. The Court Denies the Plaintiff's Motion for Injunctive Relief

The plaintiff asserts that his transfer to Leavenworth deprives him of his liberty interests in several ways and sues for injunctive relief pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3626.*fn4 The defendant counters that the plaintiff has no constitutionally-protected interest in participating in the vocational programs. Def.'s Opp'n at 3-8. Although the plaintiff demonstrates irreparable harm, he fails to show a substantial ...


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