The opinion of the court was delivered by: Seybert, District Judge
Alvaro Cabral ("Alvaro") and Jason Cabral ("Jason" and together "Petitioners") petition this Court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. On September 28, 2012 this Court held a hearing on the habeas petition. The Court DENIED the Petition and indicated that a formal opinion would follow. Articulated below are the Court's reasons for denying the Petition as well as the conditions of Petitioners' pre-trial detention to which Respondent has agreed.
Petitioners were indicted, originally under seal, on May 10, 2012. See United States v. Benitez, et al., 12-CR-0336. They were initially housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York ("MDC") and thereafter transferred to Nassau County Correctional Center ("NCCC").
While at the NCCC, officials observed several members of the Bloods gang surround Alvaro. (Docket Entry 3.) Officials believed that the Bloods were going to assault Alvaro, and therefore intervened. (Docket Entry 3.)
Shortly after the incident, Petitioners were sent back to the MDC, where they have been held in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") since June 22, 2012. (Docket Entry 1.) Petitioners complain that they are confined to a small cell twenty-three hours a day (twenty-four hours on weekends), without access to family, without privileges otherwise afforded the general population inmates, and with only one social phone call per month. (Docket Entry 1.) As a result, Petitioners allege that they "suffer increasing psychological stress" which threatens their well-being and impedes their ability to assist counsel in preparing their defense. (Docket Entry 1.)
Petitioners allege that their designation to the SHU is: (1) "not reasonably related to and necessary to achieve a legitimate institutional objective," in violation of Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979), and (2) a violation of the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. In response, the Warden of the MDC ("Respondent"), argues that Petitioners were placed in the SHU due to safety concerns. According to Respondent, there are indications that a gang directive honored by both the Bloods and the Latin Kings has been issued to physically assault Petitioners on sight.
On August 23, 2012, this Court held an ex parte hearing during which Respondent submitted, under seal, further reasons for keeping Petitioners in administrative detention. This Court held additional proceedings on September 28, 2012.*fn1
The parties' arguments were heard and the Court denied the Petition on the record.
In Bell v. Wolfish, the United States Supreme Court discussed the applicable standards in determining whether the conditions of a defendant's pre-trial detention violated his constitutional due process rights. 441 U.S. at 538-39. Wolfish essentially established a two-part test:
[F]irst, the court must determine if the condition is specifically imposed for the purposes of punishment or for a legitimate governmental purpose, secondly, if evidence of punishment is lacking, this court must determine if the restriction is "reasonably related" to a legitimate objective or constitutes an exaggerated response. If a reasonable relationship can be established, punishment is not present and the Due Process clause is not violated.
United States v. Basciano, 369 F. Supp. 2d 344, 350 (E.D.N.Y. 2005) (quoting Boudin v. Thomas, 533 F. Supp. 786, 788-89 (S.D.N.Y. 1982)). In making this determination, "prison administrators should be accorded wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security." Wolfish, ...