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BOP Must Grant Juveniles Time Served Credits

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) erred in refusing to credit a juvenile offender with 35 months of presentence custody.

On June 17, 2001, Jonah R., a juvenile, was arrested after shooting at a law enforcement officer on an Indian Reservation. After nearly 35 months in custody, on June 7, 2004, Jonah was finally sentenced under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA).” He received 30 months of custody plus another 30 months of supervised release.”

Credit for time served in the federal system is required by 18 U.S.C. § 3585 (b). “The FJDA does not expressly incorporate § 3585. However, before 1999 the BOP applied § 3585 to juveniles when calculating their sentences under the FJDA.” Based on United States v. D.H. 12 F.Supp.2d 472, 474 (D.V.I.1998), however, the BOP revised its policy in 1999. “It now refuses to credit juveniles with pre-sentence time served.”

Pursuant to the 1999 policy change, the BOP refused to grant Jonah any of the 35 months of his presentence confinement, from his 30 month sentence. Jonah filed a habeas corpus petition, under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging the BOP’s policy. The district court denied the petition, siding with the BOP based upon the reasoning of D.H.

The Ninth Circuit reversed, following an extensive statutory construction analysis. The court first concluded “that the terms of § 3585 do not unambiguously preclude its application to juveniles.”

The court then concluded, under other canons of construction, “that, when Congress revised § 3585 and the FJDA in 1984, it intended for the BOP to continue to credit juveniles with time spent in presentence custody.”

The court held “that juveniles must receive credit for pre-sentence custody.” Thus, since Jonah had served 58 months on his 30-month sentence, the court reversed the lower court and granted Jonah’s habeas corpus petition. It noted, however, that its decision “does not affect Jonah’s period of supervised release.” See: Jonah R. v. Carmona, 446 F.3d 1000 (9th Cir. 2006).

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Related legal case

Jonah R. v. Carmona