This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).







Randy Scott Bendzula, petitioner,





Terry Carlson, Warden MCF-Moose Lake,



Filed June 21, 2005


Robert H. Schumacher, Judge


Carlton County District Court

File No. CV041239



Randy Scott Bendzula, OID # 174221 MCF Faribault, 1101 Linden Lane, Faribault, MN 55021 (pro se appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Jennifer A. Service, Assistant Attorney General, 1100 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2128 (for respondent)



            Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Wright, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant Randy Scott Bendzula challenges the district court's denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.  Bendzula argues that decision of the commissioner of corrections to deny his application to participate in the Challenge Incarceration Program violates state law, the commissioner unfairly applied the policy mandating that an inmate is not allowed to participate in the program for a second time, and the commissioner is contractually obligated to place him in the program.  We affirm.


In March 2003, Bendzula was sentenced to an 84-month commitment to the commissioner of corrections for his conviction of first-degree controlled substance crime.  In August 2004, Bendzula petitioned the district court for a writ of habeas corpus under Minn. Stat. § 589.01 (2004), alleging that his liberty was being impermissibly restrained because he was denied a lesser custody status — participation in the Challenge Incarceration Program — in contravention of state law.  The district court denied Bendzula's petition.    


A writ of habeas corpus is a statutory civil remedy whereby "[a] person imprisoned or otherwise restrained of liberty, except persons committed or detained by virtue of the final judgment of a competent tribunal . . . [may] obtain relief from [unlawful] imprisonment or restraint."  Minn. Stat. § 589.01 (2004).  The supreme court has held that a writ of habeas corpus is also available to a committed person to challenge his conviction or confinement on jurisdictional and constitutional grounds.  State ex rel. Anderson v. U. S. Veterans Hosp., 268 Minn. 213, 217, 128 N.W.2d 710, 714 (1964); see also Loyd v. Fabian, 682 N.W.2d 688, 690 (Minn. App. 2004) (discussing limited scope of inquiry in habeas corpus proceedings).

Here, Bendzula claims that his liberty is being impermissibly restrained because the penitentiary officials failed to follow Minn. Stat. § 244.17 (2002), which provides that the

commissioner may select offenders who meet the eligibility requirements of subdivisions 2 and 3 to participate in a challenge incarceration program described in sections 244.171 and 244.172 for all or part of the offender's sentence if the offender agrees to participate in the program and signs a written contract with the commissioner agreeing to comply with the program's requirements.


(Emphasis added.)  Liberty interests are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and "may arise from two sources — the Due Process Clause itself and the laws of the States."  State ex rel. McMaster v. Young, 476 N.W.2d 670, 672 (Minn. App. 1991) (quotation omitted), review denied (Dec. 13, 1991).  A prisoner does not have any due process rights to participate in rehabilitative programs.  Id.  Bendzula does not claim that the Challenge Incarceration Program is not a rehabilitative program.  Nor does Minn. Stat. § 244.171, subd. 1 create a liberty interest to participate in the program.

A state statute creates a liberty interest for a prisoner when the statute places substantive limitations on the exercise of penitentiary officials' discretion.  McMaster, 476 N.W.2d at 672.  In determining whether a statute creates a liberty interest, this court looks to the plain language of the statute to ascertain the legislature intent.  See Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2004) (stating "object of all interpretation and construction of laws is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the legislature"); Burkstrand v. Burkstrand, 632 N.W.2d 206, 210 (Minn. 2001) (stating "[w]hen the language of a statute is plain and unambiguous, it . . . must be given effect").  The legislature has provided that "unless another intention clearly applies" the word "may" is permissive.  Minn. Stat. § 645.16, subds. 1, 15 (2004).

Because we find nothing in section Minn. Stat. § 244.17 or chapter 244 indicating that the legislature intended "may" to be anything other than permissive, we conclude the legislature did not intend to place any substantive limitations on the commissioner of corrections in Minn. Stat. § 244.17.  Therefore, Minn. Stat. § 244.17 does not create a liberty interest, and the decision to deny Bendzula the chance to participate in the Challenge Incarceration Program is not a matter appropriate for habeas corpus relief.

We also note the present case is distinguishable from the type of statutory violation that the supreme court concluded — under its inherent authority over the judicial system — to be reviewable under a habeas corpus claim in Kelsey v. State, 283 N.W.2d 892, 894-95 (Minn. 1979).  In Kelsey, the statutory violations arose from the parole officials' decisions in denying parole, which "must be conducted in accordance with due process."  Id. at 894.  The Challenge Incarceration Program is a rehabilitative program and as such, there are no due process concerns in denying prisoners participation in the program.  See McMaster, 476 N.W.2d at 672.

Bendzula also argues that he is entitled to habeas corpus relief because the commissioner of corrections is contractually bound to place him in the Challenge Incarceration Program.  Courts may not grant habeas corpus relief for claims based on contractual obligations that do not allege illegality based on a statutory or constitutional violation, raise a jurisdictional challenge, claim the confinement constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, or argue the petitioner is entitled to immediate release.  Loyd, 682 N.W.2d at 690.