Davis v. Lane et al
ORDER dismissing the case without prejudice; denying 3 Petitioner's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order or Preliminary Injunction; Directions to the Clerk. Signed by Judge Brian J. Davis on 11/17/2020. (KLC)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
DONOVAN G. DAVIS, JR.,
Case No: 5:20-cv-551-Oc-39PRL
WARDEN, FCC COLEMEN-LOW,
ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITHOUT PREJUDICE
Through counsel, Petitioner, Donovan Davis, Jr., a federal inmate, filed
a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (Doc. 1;
Petition). In his sole ground, Petitioner asserts:
Respondents are in violation of the Eighth
Amendment by failing to exercise [their] statutory
authority to reduce the population . . . to mitigate the
severe risk posed by COVID-19, and by failing to take
adequate safety measures—social distancing, hygiene,
and medical treatment—to protect inmates during the
See Petition at 2, 6. Petitioner’s counsel also has filed an emergency motion for
injunctive relief (Doc. 3; Motion), with a supporting memorandum of law (Doc.
4; Memo). In the Motion, Petitioner seeks an order directing Respondents to
“de-densify the inmate population by making use of the home confinement
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authority . . .”; to eliminate the requirement that an inmate have served a
certain percentage of his sentence to qualify for home confinement; and to
improve the conditions of confinement at Coleman-Low by providing cleaning
and hygiene products and using empty housing units to achieve social
distancing. See Motion at 1-2.
Petitioner was sentenced to serve 204 months in the Bureau of Prison’s
(BOP’s) custody in 2015. See Case No. 6:14-cr-43-Orl-41DCI. Petitioner, who is
thirty-nine years old, alleges he “suffers a variety of ailments” that have been
identified as risk factors for contracting COVID-19, including obesity,
hypertension, diabetes, and asthma. See Petition at 11. He contends ColemanLow has “among the highest incidence per capita of staff infections in the BOP
system,” though he says there is “no reliable information . . . about the degree
to which the infection has spread.” Id. at 14.
On October 29, 2020, Petitioner submitted an “informal resolution form”
to the BOP requesting that he be placed on home confinement. See Doc. 1-1. A
correctional counselor responded that Petitioner does not qualify for home
confinement because he has not served at least fifty percent of his sentence.
Petitioner’s projected release date is December 3, 2029. See Federal
BOP Website, available at https://www.bop.gov/ (last visited November 16,
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In his Petition, Petitioner asserts his correctional facility “is ill-equipped
to … [handle] a COVID-19 epidemic.” See Petition at 15. For instance,
Petitioner explains inmates are not properly evaluated or treated when they
report possible symptoms of COVID-19, and those without fevers are simply
returned to the general population. Id. at 25-26. Additionally, inmates are
oftentimes in close proximity to one another, share phones and computers, and
do not have adequate cleaning supplies to disinfect common areas. Id. at 28.
According to Petitioner, “[t]he only effective way to minimize the potential
devastation from COVID-19 in BOP facilities generally and at FCC Low in
particular is to downsize immediately the incarcerated population” and to
implement aggressive virus-detection and prevention protocols. Id. at 21. In
support of his Petition, Petitioner offers his own affidavit and the affidavits of
three other inmates (Docs. 1-4 through 1-7). Petitioner and the other inmates
generally aver the conditions at Coleman-Low are such that inmates are
unable to properly distance from one another, lack sufficient cleaning supplies
and soap, and do not receive timely medical treatment (for issues not related
Petitioner seeks the same relief in his Petition as he does in his Motion:
an order directing prison officials to “maximize appropriate transfers to home
confinement for all appropriate inmates” regardless of the amount of time they
have served in relation to their overall sentences. Id. at 35. Additionally,
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Petitioner wants the Court to direct prison officials to ensure social distancing
mandates are followed; provide cleaning supplies; require staff and inmates to
wear personal protective equipment; conduct daily temperature checks;
question inmates daily to identify those with symptoms of COVID-19; improve
communication about risks and safety procedures. Id. at 36-38.
Significantly, Petitioner does not seek “compassionate release” under 18
U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A).2 Nor does he challenge the length of his sentence or seek
release from BOP’s custody. In fact, in his Memo in support of his Motion,
Petitioner clarifies he “is not seeking to modify his sentence or be released from
custody, as in-home confinement inmates remain in the custody of the BOP.”
See Memo at 2. Rather, Petitioner challenges the BOP’s “categorical den[ial]
[of] requests by those [including himself] who have served less than 50% of
their sentence, irrespective of COVID-19 vulnerability.” Id. at 5.
The relevant statutory provision provides as follows:
(2) Home confinement authority.-- The authority
under this subsection may be used to place a prisoner
in home confinement for the shorter of 10 percent of
A request for compassionate release must be brought before the
sentencing court. Petitioner was sentenced by the United States District Court
for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division. A review of Petitioner’s
criminal docket shows he has not moved for compassionate release. He has,
however, filed a motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See Case
No. 6:14-cr-43-Orl-41DCI (Doc. 447); Case No. 6:20-cv-1037-Orl-41DCI (Doc.
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the term of imprisonment of that prisoner or 6 months.
The Bureau of Prisons shall, to the extent practicable,
place prisoners with lower risk levels and lower needs
on home confinement for the maximum amount of
time permitted under this paragraph.
18 U.S.C. § 3624(c)(2). In response to COVID-19, Congress expanded the BOP’s
home confinement authority as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and
Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, Pub. L. No. 116-136, 134 Stat. 281 (2020).
The relevant section provides:
During the covered emergency period, if the Attorney
General finds that emergency conditions will
materially affect the functioning of the [BOP], the
Director of the [BOP] may lengthen the maximum
amount of time for which the Director is authorized to
place a prisoner in home confinement under the first
sentence of section 3624(c)(2) of title 18, United States
Code, as the Director determines appropriate.
CARES Act, § 12003(b)(2).
Petitioner is not entitled to the relief he seeks under § 2241. While
Petitioner may dispute the BOP’s response to his “informal resolution,” the
BOP has exclusive jurisdiction to decide where to house prisoners, including
home confinement. See 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b) (“Notwithstanding any other
provision of law, a designation of a place of imprisonment under this subsection
is not reviewable by any court.”);3 United States v. Calderon, 801 F. App’x 730,
While the sentencing court can recommend that a prisoner be placed in
a particular “type of penal or correctional facility,” the decision whether to
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731-32 (11th Cir. 2020) (holding a district court lacks jurisdiction to grant a
request for home confinement under the Second Chance Act). See also McKune
v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 39 (2002) (“It is well settled that the decision where to
house inmates is at the core of prison administrators’ expertise.”); Barfield v.
Brierton, 883 F.2d 923, 936 (11th Cir. 1989) (“[I]nmates usually possess no
constitutional right to be housed at one prison over another.”).
District Courts that have addressed this issue uniformly conclude the
CARES Act does not vest district courts with authority to direct the BOP to
place prisoners in home confinement or to review or override the BOP’s
decisions denying such requests. See, e.g., United States v. Alvarez, No. 19-cr20343-BLOOM, 2020 WL 2572519, at *2 (S.D. Fla. May 21, 2020) (“While the
CARES Act gives the BOP broad discretion to expand the use of home
confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court lacks jurisdiction to
order home detention under this provision.” (emphasis in original)); United
States v. Phillips, No. 616CR198ORL28GJK, 2020 WL 2219855, at *1 (M.D.
Fla. May 7, 2020) (“The CARES Act did not remove the exclusive authority of
the BOP to designate the place of an inmate’s confinement.”); United States v.
Daniels, No. 4:08-CR-0464-SLB, 2020 WL 1938973, at *2 (N.D. Ala. Apr. 22,
2020) (“[U]nder the CARES Act, the BOP, through the Attorney General’s
place a prisoner in home confinement rests with the BOP. See 18 U.S.C. §
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delegation, retains the ‘exclusive authority and sole discretion to designate the
place of an inmate’s confinement,’ including home confinement.”). See also
Haymore v. Joseph, No. 3:20CV5518-MCR/MAF, 2020 WL 6587279, at *6 (N.D.
Fla. Sept. 21, 2020), report and recommendation adopted sub nom. Haymore
v. Warden Joseph, FPC Pensacola, No. 3:20CV5518-MCR/MAF, 2020 WL
6581975 (N.D. Fla. Nov. 9, 2020) (same) (citing cases); United States v. Buck,
No. CR 14-00227-KD-B, 2020 WL 3490609, at *6 (S.D. Ala. June 26, 2020)
While Petitioner styles his action as one for relief under § 2241, he
primarily challenges the conditions of his confinement, asserting the BOP, in
general, and Coleman-Low, in particular, effectively are subjecting inmates to
conditions that offend basic Eighth Amendment principles. Indeed, in his
Memo in support of his Motion, Petitioner cites and discusses Eighth
Amendment deliberate indifference precedent, including a recent Eleventh
Circuit opinion vacating entry of a preliminary injunction in favor of “medically
vulnerable” pretrial detainees who claimed they were uniquely at risk of
contracting COVID-19 at Miami’s Metro West Detention Center. See Memo at
3, 6 (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994); Swain v. Junior, 961
F.3d 1276, 1280-81 (11th Cir. 2020)). Petitioner claims the BOP’s “failure to
make prompt use of [its] authority [under the CARES Act] to protect the lives
of vulnerable inmates is tantamount to deliberate indifference.” Id. at 6.
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The fundamental purpose of a habeas proceeding is to allow a person in
custody to attack the legality of that custody, and the “traditional function of
the writ is to secure release from illegal custody.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411
U.S. 475, 484 (1973). In contrast, when a prisoner claims he is confined in
conditions that pose a substantial risk of serious harm to his health, the claim
is properly raised in a civil rights action. The Supreme Court distinguished
between the two actions as follows:
Federal law opens two main avenues to relief on
complaints related to imprisonment: a petition for
habeas corpus . . . and a complaint under the Civil
Rights Act . . . . Challenges to the validity of any
confinement or to particulars affecting its duration are
the province of habeas corpus; requests for relief
turning on circumstances of confinement may be
presented in a [civil rights] action.
Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750 (2004) (internal citations omitted). See
also Wilson v. Williams, 961 F.3d 829, 838 (6th Cir. 2020) (“[C]onditions of
confinement claims seeking relief in the form of improvement of prison
conditions or transfer to another facility are not properly brought under §
2241.”). To the extent Petitioner challenges the conditions of his confinement
at Coleman-Low and seeks relief to improve those conditions, § 2241 is not the
correct avenue through which to proceed. As such, the Petition is due to be
dismissed without prejudice subject to Petitioner’s right to pursue other
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avenues of relief that may be available to him.4 Given the Petition is due to be
dismissed, Petitioner fails to demonstrate he is entitled to injunctive relief, and
his Motion is due to be denied.
Accordingly, it is
This case is hereby DISMISSED without prejudice.
Plaintiff’s emergency motion for temporary restraining order or
preliminary injunction (Doc. 3) is DENIED.
The Clerk shall enter judgment dismissing this case without
prejudice, terminate any pending motions, and close the file.
DONE AND ORDERED at Jacksonville, Florida, this 17th day of
Counsel of Record
For instance, to the extent Petitioner intends to pursue a claim for the
denial of medical care for his various health issues, such a claim should be
raised in a Bivens action after properly exhausting administrative remedies.
See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403
U.S. 388 (1971). The Court takes no position on whether a claim for deliberate
indifference to the risks associated with COVID-19 is cognizable under Bivens.
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