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TUNNELL v. ROBINSON

March 20, 1980

Jack Burton TUNNELL, Plaintiff,
v.
William B. Robinson, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROSENBERG

SUPPLEMENTAL MEMORANDUM

The plaintiff in this case, Jack Burton Tunnell, incarcerated in the State Correctional Institution, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, filed a complaint under authority granted by the civil rights statute. *fn1" He charged the defendant, William B. Robinson and others associated with this Commonwealth's prison system, with violation of his civil rights in this institution. *fn2"

 The plaintiff charged that while being a prisoner in the institution, the defendants were hampering his ability to transact financial matters with private banking facilities; that he was not permitted free access to his bank passbooks; that while other inmates were permitted to use the mail to obtain articles from catalogue sales stores, he was not so permitted to order from retailers catering to the black community; that rehabilitation programs for long-term inmates were inadequate; that inmates were not provided with periodic chest X-rays; that the institutional medical facilities were inadequate; that the dining facility was filthy; and, that the defendants were denying the inmates proper family visitation privileges.

 The matter was referred to a United States Magistrate for an evidentiary hearing and submission of proposed findings of fact and a report and recommendation. Thereupon the Magistrate held an evidentiary hearing, heard witnesses, received testimony and made proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law and filed his report and recommendation and gave notice to the parties to file any objections they might have within ten (10) days from the date of his order.

 Rather, it is the assumed, matter-of-right character of the charges as made by the plaintiff and the inadequacy of the evidence as presented to support them or lend weight of any significance as they may have offended the civil rights as charged, which I have also considered. Since there seems to be some misunderstanding of the rights of incarcerated persons, as shown by the number of petitions and complaints as filed for correction of internal matters in the places of custody, and because of the mistaken belief that federal courts can provide remedies for practically any matter, whatsoever, I deem it appropriate to clarify to some extent prisoner's rights to resort to federal courts and the limitations which govern federal courts. This, perhaps, will eliminate some futile efforts or hopes on the part of incarcerated prisoners and reduce the overburdened work load of the federal courts and their staffs.

 The United States Constitution and federal laws are definitely concerned with the welfare of incarcerated people, as they are with unincarcerated people. However, to classify everything as being constitutionally protected is factually and legally erroneous. The Constitution and civil rights laws are not a catch-all, but, on the contrary, can be only in federal court if a matter raises substantial federal questions. It will be sufficient here to explain this in relation to the circumstances of this case.

 While civil rights laws aim for the protection of prisoners who are held involuntarily in confinement, Congress never intended that the laws were to be used for the purpose of disregarding the basic fact that such individuals who seek aid from the courts should be able to sweep aside the fact, also, that they are incarcerated as a matter of punishment for criminal violations even though they are accorded the protection of due process.

 Lawful incarceration necessarily operates to deprive a prisoner of certain rights and privileges he would otherwise enjoy in a free society. Courtney v. Bishop, 409 F.2d 1185, C.A. 8, 1969, cert. den. 396 U.S. 915, 90 S. Ct. 235, 24 L. Ed. 2d 192. Some deprivations are a necessary and expected result of being an inmate of a penal institution which must provide for the custody, maintenance, discipline and, optimistically, rehabilitation of those who have violated the laws of the sovereign. Gray v. Creamer, 465 F.2d 179, C.A. 3, 1970, on remand D.C., 376 F. Supp. 675. A prisoner does not retain constitutional rights which are inconsistent with his status as a prisoner or with the legitimate penological objectives of the corrections system. Newman v. State of Alabama, 559 F.2d 283, C.A. 5, 1977. Imprisonment unavoidably results in forfeiture of certain rights and privileges commonly exercised in a free society. Gittlemacker v. Prasse, 428 F.2d 1, C.A. 3, 1970. When a person is lawfully incarcerated in a penal institution, he loses the right, except as granted specially by a court before entering incarceration, to enter into, engage in or conduct ordinary business ventures and he does not have the right to set up his own business oriented ventures and require that special rules and regulations be tailored to accommodate such ventures. Ray v. Brierley, 316 F. Supp. 1057 (W.D.Pa., 1970). That a discretionary benefit has or has not been granted to a state prisoner does not of itself suggest that his rights have been unconstitutionally denied him. Marnin v. Pinto, 463 F.2d 583, C.A. 3, 1972.

 The civil rights laws never intended that while such individuals are being incarcerated, they can have full enjoyment and freedom to do those things which all citizens normally have a right to do. When incarcerated, as a penalty for such violation of the laws of the land, a person must pay with deprivation of many personal rights and even suffer discomfort for his indiscretion in violating the law; and for him to expect that such punishment is to be tendered to him with loving care and kindness and with such luxuries as he might have enjoyed as a hotel guest in some resort, is plainly unthinkable. It is not to be encouraged as a matter of public policy and public welfare, and for the better control of such incarcerated persons by their guards and custodians, both for themselves and those responsible for their custody. The plaintiff here is not on vacation as such is customarily understood and limitations must be imposed on his dealings, whether financial or personal. Such matters must be left to those responsible for his custody.

 When important rights are at stake in prisons, courts should not be reluctant to protect them, but the judiciary must move with measured caution when it lays down requirements for affirmative action by prison administrators. Braxton v. Carlson, 483 F.2d 933, C.A. 3, 1973. Except under exceptional circumstances, internal matters such as rules and regulations in state prisons are the sole concern of states, and federal courts will not inquire concerning them. Walker v. Pate, 356 F.2d 502, C.A. 7, 1966, cert. den. 384 U.S. 966, 86 S. Ct. 1598, 16 L. Ed. 2d 678. And, federal courts will not interfere with uniformly applied prison regulations designed to achieve discipline, and which are indispensable to the orderly operation of state penal institutions. United States ex rel. Raymond v. Rundle, 276 F. Supp. 637 (D.C.Pa., 1967). As for the plaintiff's efforts to stretch prisoner civil rights into the realm of rehabilitation programs, periodic chest X-rays and other phases of medical facilities and adequacies, these are the discretionary responsibilities of the constituted officials. Courts cannot be concerned with prison menu or the lack of medical care to which prisoners believe they are entitled or the lack of exercise or the lack of access to special religious services. These involve matters of internal prison administration. Krist v. Smith, 439 F.2d 146, C.A. 5, 1971.

 Thus, it is that financial matters in and out of a place of custody, visitation and the like, must exclusively be left to the authorities prescribed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Interference by federal courts with the Commonwealth's responsibilities and obligations has never been authorized by any federal statute or by the Constitution of the United States. The welfare of all people both inside and outside of prison walls must be of utmost concern to a government, and it is for the courts, acting always under the direction of law, to balance the welfare of the public as well as those whom the law must necessarily incarcerate for interference with the public's welfare. Accordingly, while courts seek to protect the welfare of those incarcerated, courts can do so only within the limits of authority granted them by the Constitution and law. Under these circumstances prisoner complaints relating to conditions concerning clothing issued, or repairs of facilities and the like, are matters of internal concern and should be presented to the administrators of the institution to correct on each occasion when and where they occur since they are bound to occur on an almost daily basis. Sparks v. Fuller, 506 F.2d 1238, C.A. 1, 1974. Since it is not the function of courts to superintend treatment *fn3" and discipline of prisoners in penitentiaries, and because prisoner disapproval of rules and regulations provides no jurisdiction in federal courts, petitions claiming that such restrictions effectuating such regulations violate constitutional rights, and seeking supervision over such prison administrators, do not give federal courts jurisdiction, nevertheless. Ray v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 263 F. Supp. 630 (D.C.Pa., 1967). *fn4"

 The Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and the Recommendation of the Magistrate are adopted as set forth in an Order of Court.

 ORDER OF COURT


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