United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS; GRANTING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.
Aron Douglass Castlin, a California prisoner, has filed this pro se action for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the deprivation of his credits due to the reclassification of his workgroup status from D-1 (credit-earning) to D-2 (non credit-earning). Petitioner alleges that his workgroup status reclassification violates the terms of his 2007 plea agreement and the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution. Respondent was ordered to show cause why the petition should not be granted. Respondent has filed an answer, and Petitioner has filed a traverse. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.
2007 Conviction. Petitioner is incarcerated pursuant to a guilty plea in 2000. Docket #5, Ex. 2.,  In 2007, while still incarcerated, Petitioner was charged in Humboldt County Case No. CRPB-065173 with possession of a weapon in prison in violation of California Penal Code section 4502(a). Docket #1 at 2 & Ex. A. Petitioner pled guilty to the charge on January 11, 2007. Docket #1 at 19. Petitioner claims that the 2007 negotiated plea agreement required him to serve one year minus 15% credits. Docket #1 at 11.
Gang Member Status. Petitioner was identified as an active prison gang member in 2000. Docket #15, Ex. 2. On August 6, 2006, a gang validation/rejection review was conducted and Petitioner was revalidated as an active prison gang member. The revalidation was supported by a confidential memorandum dated March 29, 2006; a confidential memorandum dated January 31, 2006; and a California Department of Corrections ("CDC") Form 128B dated August 2, 2006. Docket #15, Ex. 2. As a result, Petitioner was assessed an indeterminate term in the Security Housing Unit ("SHU") at Pelican Bay State Prison ("PBSP"). Docket #15, Ex. 3.
Petitioner's status as an active prison gang member is reviewed regularly. In January 2010, Petitioner had a 180-day review before the Unit Classification Committee ("UCC"). Petitioner refused to appear for the review. The UCC reviewed and affirmed Petitioner's classification as an active prison gang member. Petitioner was informed that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR")'s "recognized avenues for release from SHU are through the debriefing process or through being determined to be an inactive prison gang member or associate as delineated in [California Code of Regulations], Title 15, sections 3378(e) and 3341.5(c)(4) and (5)." Docket #15, Ex. 4 at 2.
In February 2011, Petitioner had an annual review of his classification status before the Institution Classification Committee ("ICC"). His status as an active prison gang member was affirmed, and he was again informed of the "avenues for release from SHU[.]" Docket #15, Ex. 4 at 3. The ICC asked Petitioner if he was interested in debriefing, and he replied, "No." Id . The ICC continued Petitioner's SHU housing for an indeterminate term. Id.
Petitioner's classification status was reviewed again in July 2011, January 2012, July 2012, February 2013, and July 2013. Docket #15, Ex. 4 at 4-10, 12. In each review, prison officials affirmed his active prison gang status and therefore retained Petitioner in SHU housing for an indeterminate term. In connection with the January 2012, July 2012 and February 2013 status reviews, Petitioner was advised that he could be released from SHU if he were successfully debriefed. Petitioner has not sought to participate in the debriefing process and currently remains housed in SHU.
Amendment of California Penal Code Section 2933.6. In January 2010, California Penal Code section 2933.6 was amended by Senate Bill 18. In relevant part, the amended section 2933.6(a) mandates that persons placed in SHU upon validation as a prison gang member or associate are no longer eligible to earn credits pursuant to sections 2933 (worktime credits) or 2933.05 (program credits) of the California Penal Code during the time they are housed in SHU. In its entirety, section 2933.6(a) now reads:
Notwithstanding any other law, a person who is placed in a Security Housing Unit, Psychiatric Services Unit, Behavioral Management Unit, or an Administrative Segregation Unit for misconduct described in subdivision (b) or upon validation as a prison gang member or associate is ineligible to earn credits pursuant to Section 2933 or 2933.05 during the time he or she is in the Security Housing Unit, Psychiatric Services Unit, Behavioral Management Unit, or the Administrative Segregation Unit for that misconduct.
Cal. Penal Code § 2933.6(a) (West 2014).
Reclassification of Work Status. Pursuant to the changes in California Penal Code section 2933.6, Petitioner's work status was reclassified from D-1 (credit-earning) to D-2 (non credit-earning) on February 10, 2010. Docket #1 at 6, 11, 14. Petitioner alleges that this reclassification deprived him of the credits promised to him as part of his 2007 negotiated plea agreement.
State Habeas Petition. On September 24, 2010, Petitioner filed a state habeas petition in Del Norte County Superior Court challenging his workgroup classification as it related to his 2007 conviction and sentence in Del Norte County Case No. HCPB10-5233. Docket #15, Ex. 7. On November 24, 2010, the superior court denied his petition in a reasoned decision:
The Petition is denied because Petitioner has failed to establish sufficient grounds or circumstances upon which relief may be granted.
Credits are not a vested right; they must be earned by the inmate.
Any action to withdraw from the Petitioner's plea bargain must be taken in the Court where the plea was entered.
Id., Ex. 8. The state appellate court and the California Supreme Court summarily denied Petitioner's state habeas petitions. ...