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April 14, 2010

Intriguing Ninth Circuit ruling on RDAP eligibility claim

The federal residential drug abuse program (RDAP) is rarely discussed and, I believe, even more rarely the subject of litigation. For this reason (and others), I found intriguing today's Ninth Circuit paenl ruling in Mora-Meraz v. Thomas, No. 09-35413 (9th Cir. Apr. 14, 2010) (available here).  Here is how it starts:

Antonio Mora-Meraz (“Mora-Meraz”), a federal prisoner in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons (the “Bureau”), appeals the denial of his § 2241 petition for habeas corpus relief. He was convicted of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, and was sentenced to 120 months of incarceration. In the district court, he challenged the Bureau’s decision to deny him eligibility for admission to the Residential Drug Abuse Program (the “RDAP”) at the Federal Correctional Institution at Sheridan, Oregon.

The RDAP is an intensive drug abuse program requiring a minimum of 500 hours of treatment apart from the general prison population. Program Statement 5330.10, Chapter 5.1.  The program utilizes both individual and group therapy sessions and lasts for six to twelve months. Id.  Additionally, individuals enrolled in the RDAP are required to complete transitional courses in a community-based program once placed in a halfway house or on supervised release. Id. The RDAP is attractive to prisoners because, as an incentive to participate in substance abuse rehabilitation, it grants up to one year sentence credit to those who successfully complete it.

Before the district court, Mora-Meraz claimed that the Bureau’s unwritten requirement that he present documented proof of substance use within twelve months of imprisonment was invalid because it was not subject to notice and comment as required by the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), and because the Bureau failed to articulate a rational explanation for the requirement.  We hold that the Bureau did not run afoul of the APA’s procedural requirements and affirm the district court’s denial of Mora-Meraz’s petition for habeas corpus.

April 14, 2010 at 10:25 PM | Permalink


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"...because the Bureau failed to articulate a rational explanation for the (proof of substance use) requirement"... for an inmate doing 10 years for selling coke?

I'd be interested in hearing the explanation myself.

Posted by: John K | Apr 15, 2010 9:48:27 AM

John K,

How about "We require proof because program beds are a scarce resource that have to be allocated somehow. Even with this requirement we still get more applicants than available program slots and so have to employ additional winnowing steps to determine who will actually participate. As for choosing this particular criteria it makes sense that we would limit participation in a drug treatment program to those who can demonstrate that they might be helped by it. It is not going to help someone who does not have a drug abuse problem to go through this program so we require proof of such a problem before allowing participation."

Also, even in the universe of small time dealers there have to be some who treat it as strictly business without touching the pleasure side at all. I don't think accepting proof of selling as proof of use (and even worse as proof of actual addiction)would be a wise choice at all.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 15, 2010 10:49:45 AM

Can there be anything done when they have you in the RDAP class for 2 months and then 'bump' you?

Posted by: Carol McFadden | Jun 6, 2010 4:24:57 AM

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