held October 28th, while a hearing for Johnson was held October 20th; for Negri October 23rd; and for Simmons and Brown on October 29th. (Thomas testified that his hearing was held during the first week of November and Moore claimed that he never received a hearing but was transferred to another institution prior to Christmas.) At the hearing the charges were read to the accused inmate and he was asked how he wished to plead. If the plea was not guilty, an informal colloquy occurred between the Board and the prisoner principally concerning the report of the inmate's misconduct, as well as his complaints, and any defense he may wish to present. After the discussion was terminated, the prisoner was told to remain outside the hearing room and in a few minutes was recalled and informed of the decision. There is no showing in the record that plaintiffs requested the presence of counsel or asked to call or cross-examine witnesses. In all plaintiffs' cases, they were found guilty, committed to seclusion until further review and recommended for transfer. Simmons was transferred to the Western Pennsylvania Penitentiary on November 1st; Moore was transferred to the same institution prior to Christmas; Brooks was transferred to another State Institution (the exact location is not identified in the record) on January 14, 1970; Johnson was moved to the State Correctional Institution at Graterford in February, 1970, and Negri was similarly transferred on April 3, 1970. Thomas was moved to Graterford in December for a Philadelphia County Court hearing and remained there for a month and a half, being then returned to Huntingdon where he remained in punitive segregation.
While all Courts recognize that a prisoner retains his right to procedural due process in connection with the imposition of additional punishment for a breach of prison discipline, the question remains, "What process is due?" In Sostre v. McGinnis, supra, the Court stated that for an inquiry to be minimally fair and rational, the prisoner should be confronted with the accusation, informed of the evidence against him, and afforded a reasonable opportunity to explain his actions. There is no showing that such protection was not afforded here. It may well be advisable for prison officials to provide additional procedural safeguards, consistent with prison security, in order to properly ascertain the truth of the charges made and avoid an accusation of arbitrary and capricious conduct, but, under the circumstances of this case as revealed by the evidence, I am satisfied that no constitutional deprivation was visited on these plaintiffs. The delay in notifying prisoners of the charges against them may be constitutionally objectionable in another context but mindful of the emergency then existing,
the large number of cases to be considered, the fact that less serious offenders were tried first, and that these plaintiffs in staging their protest acted deliberately and with design, thereby vesting themselves with knowledge of the basis for the charges against them, the delay did not reach constitutional proportions.
II. The denial of access to the Courts and of legal assistance
Reasonable access to the courts is a constitutional imperative which has been held to prevail against a variety of state interests. Similarly, the right under the equal protection clause of the indigent and uneducated prisoner to the tools necessary to receive adequate hearing in the courts has received special reenforcement by the federal courts in recent decades. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 92 S. Ct. 1079, 31 L. Ed. 2d 263 (1972); Gilmore v. Lynch, 319 F. Supp. 105 (N.D.Cal.1970), affirmed sub nom. Younger v. Gilmore, 404 U.S. 15, 92 S. Ct. 250, 30 L. Ed. 2d 142 (1971). The policy in effect in seclusion at Huntingdon restricting Court correspondence to cases with a prescribed deadline was clearly unreasonable and completely impeded inmates from either obtaining legal advice
or access to the Courts. The practices in punitive segregation of only allowing one letter per week to be mailed out similarly was unreasonable and constitutionally unsupportable. See Nolan v. Scafati, 430 F.2d 548 (1st Cir. 1970). Fortunately, these restrictions have been eliminated and unlimited access to legal materials and correspondence is now allowed in punitive segregation while seclusion is no longer being used for punitive purposes and has been converted into a Psychiatric Unit. The defense attempts to excuse these practices as necessitated by the emergency has a hollow ring. The existing policy in seclusion forbade any mailing, absent a deadline, and was in effect even during non-emergency situations. Notwithstanding this, the emergency-created conditions were not of such gravity and import as to justify the restriction enforced here. Furthermore, there is evidence that these practices were in violation of a Department of Justice Administrative Directive and this causes me great concern, for if prison officials merely pay lip service to such directives, then the entire prison system may be undermined. It would behoove Justice Department officials to see to it that prison staffs comply with the law and administrative directives and, it goes without saying, that prison officials who set themselves up as beyond the reach of higher authority are skating on thin ice indeed. In any event, during the period from October 4, 1969, to at least February 18, 1970, plaintiffs were denied reasonable access to the Courts, to counsel, and to their legal materials.
Injunctive relief is inappropriate because the restrictions have been removed and free access is now a reality. Furthermore, the court is satisfied that there will be no recurrence of the prior practices herein criticized and disapproved. With reference to liability, except for defendants Russell and Williams, there is no contention that any other prison personnel were either responsible for, or engaged in, the implementation of this policy. Defendant Russell, as Superintendent, bears the ultimate administrative responsibility for the policy limiting access to counsel and the courts. There has been no defense evidence negating or contradicting this conclusion. Defendant Williams, as Deputy Superintendent, was actively engaged in administering this policy and the evidence revealed that his personal approval was required before an inmate in seclusion could comply with a court-ordered deadline. The evidence disclosed further that an Administrative Directive was forwarded by the Attorney General's office to Huntingdon on May 1, 1969, in which it was stated that all inmates were to be allowed to transmit and receive mail of a legal nature or concerning his legal status. As hereinbefore noted, the explanation that the limitations imposed on such correspondence was necessitated by the emergency condition will not suffice. Therefore, I find that defendants Russell and Williams are legally responsible under the Civil Rights Act for depriving plaintiffs Simmons, Johnson, and Brooks of their constitutional right of reasonable access to the courts. See Basista v. Weir, 340 F.2d 74 (3d Cir. 1965).
Plaintiffs contend that they were damaged because they were unable to pursue legal actions pending in various courts at the time they were placed in seclusion but a review of the evidence convinces me that no actual damages were sustained. For example, Johnson was able to file a nunc pro tunc pleading after being released from seclusion and the relief he sought was denied on the merits; Simmons, in his habeas corpus action, was subsequently permitted by the sentencing court to file all legal documents which he claimed were illegally confiscated while he was in seclusion; and Brooks had never filed a habeas corpus petition until after he was released from seclusion even though the opportunity was available to him from the time he arrived in Huntingdon during the summer of 1968. Plaintiffs have not sought damages because of their inability to file court actions relative to the legality of their confinements in seclusion but, even if they had, the record amply justifies such confinements and, hence, no damages would appear.
Finally, the actions of defendants Russell and Williams were not of such a nature as to warrant an award of punitive damages. See Basista v. Weir, supra ; Knuckles v. Prasse, 302 F. Supp. 1036 (E.D.Pa.1969), affirmed 435 F.2d 1255 (3d Cir. 1970).
As only an award of nominal damages would be appropriate under the circumstances of this case, judgment will be entered in favor of plaintiffs Simmons, Johnson and Brooks and against defendants Russell and Williams in the nominal amount of one (1) dollar. As to Bailey and Brown, they not having appeared or presented testimony in support of their individual claims, judgment will be entered against them and in favor of the defendants.