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Williams v. Eichenlaub

March 24, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gerald E. Rosen Chief Judge, United States District Court



Petitioner Michael Leon Williams has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Petitioner, who is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, Michigan, challenges the Federal Bureau of Prisons' administration of the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the petition.


Petitioner is incarcerated pursuant to firearms-related convictions. He was sentenced in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri to fifteen years' imprisonment and five years' supervised release.

Petitioner owes approximately $25,000 in child support. In 2007, Petitioner was removed from his UNICOR job*fn1 because he refused to allow the institution to withhold 50% of his pay to satisfy his child support obligation. Petitioner filed a request for administrative remedy stating that he would pay $25.00 each month toward his child support obligation and requesting reinstatement to his job. The administrative remedy was denied. See Response to Request for Administrative Remedy, 1/22/08. Petitioner appealed the denial of his request for administrative remedy to the Regional and Central Offices. Both appeals were denied. See Regional Administrative Remedy Appeal Response, 8/20/08, and Central Office Administrative Remedy Appeal Response, 5/13/08.

Petitioner then filed the pending petition for a writ of habeas corpus. He argues that the BOP lacked the authority to remove him from his prison job for his refusal to participate in the BOP's Inmate Financial Responsibility Program. He further claims that, because the sentencing judge did not establish a specific schedule of restitution payments to be collected during incarceration, the BOP lacked authority to substitute its own schedule.


The Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (IFRP) is a work program instituted by the Bureau of Prisons to encourage "each sentenced inmate to meet his or her legitimate financial obligations." 28 C.F.R. § 545.10. The program allows for the development of a financial plan so that inmates may satisfy enumerated obligations, such as restitution payments, while incarcerated. 28 C.F.R. § 545.11(a). While the program is voluntary, refusal to participate in the program is not without consequences. For examples, an inmate who refuses to participate in the IFRP will not be placed in UNICOR. 28 C.F.R. § 545.11(d).

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has not specifically addressed the IFRP in the context of payment of child support obligations. But, the Sixth Circuit has "implicitly endorsed" the IFRP and approved a district court's delegation of scheduling restitution payments to the BOP.

Weinberger v. United States, 268 F.3d 346, 360 (6th Cir. 2001). Additionally, the Sixth Circuit has implicitly upheld the constitutionality of this program in at least one other case. See United States v. Callan, 96 F. App'x 299, 301 (6th Cir. 2004) (noting "the complete absence of any constitutional, statutory or decisional authority for the proposition that a federal district court has the subject[-]matter jurisdiction to micro[-]manage the IFRP for the Bureau of Prisons" and further noting that the authority that exists supports the IFRP against general, and due process, challenges).

As the Sixth Circuit has noted, "due process challenges to the IFRP have uniformly been rejected." Weinberger, 268 F.3d at 361, n. 6. Courts have ruled that the IFRP clearly serves valid penological interests of rehabilitation and that a prisoner's having to choose between participation in the program or risking significant penalties does not violate a prisoner's constitutional rights. See United States v. Williams, 996 F.2d 231, 234 (10th Cir.1993) (restitution orders may be satisfied through IFRP); Montano-Figuero v. Crabtree, 162 F.3d 548, 549 (9th Cir. 1998) (IFRP requiring inmate to pay court-imposed fines not unconstitutional); Muhamad v. Moore, 760 F. Supp 869, 871 (D. Kan. 1991) (IFRP requirements do not violate constitutional rights); James v. Quinlan, 866 F.2d 627, 630 (3d Cir. 1989); Dorman v. Thornburgh, 955 F.2 57 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (rejecting both the due process and excessive punishment claims of a prisoner who was removed from his work assignment because he refused to participate in the IFRP).

Courts have also upheld the payment of child support obligations through the IFRP. Burgin v. Cauley, No. 0:08-CV-136-HRW, 2009 WL 971449, *3 (E.D. Ky. April 08, 2009) (holding that collection of a child support debt under IFRP is proper and "fully consistent with the BOP's authorization, under the direction of the Attorney General, to provide for rehabilitation and reformation"); Trinh v. Thomas, No. CV 08-203-MA, 2008 WL 4133562, *3 (D. Or. Aug. 29, 2008) (holding that child support obligation may be collected through IFRP); Scott v. Hamidullah, No. 3:05-3027-CMC-JRM, 2007 WL 904803, *5 (D. S.C. March 21, 2007) (same).

Finally, while prisoners who refuse to participate in the program do suffer adverse consequences, the benefits denied such as the loss of a prison job, are not constitutionally guaranteed. See Johnson v. Rowley, 569 F.3d 40, 44 (2d Cir. 2009) ("[A] federal prisoner has no protected property interest in a UNICOR job assignment."); Bulger v. United States Bureau of Prisons, 65 F.3d 48, 49-50 (5th Cir. 1995) (holding that prisoners have no constitutionally protected liberty or property interests in their prison job assignments); James v. Quinlan, 866 F.2d 627, 629 ...

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