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Jamieson v. Robinson

decided: February 12, 1981.


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania C.A. No. 79-0424

Before Adams, Van Dusen and Weis, Circuit Judges.

Author: Adams


The principal question in this case is whether a prisoner's right to equal protection of the laws is violated by a state's failure to institute a work release program at a particular state institution.

On April 2, 1979, appellant, Joseph C. Jamieson, an inmate at the State Correctional Institute (S.C.I.) at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 1343, alleging a deprivation of his right to equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The complaint sought declaratory relief under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202, a preliminary and permanent injunction, and any other relief deemed just and equitable by the court.

Specifically, Jamieson averred that he had applied for work release pursuant to 61 P.S. § 1051 et seq. and Bureau of Corrections Directive BC-ADM 805 (Rev. 1/77), but that the defendants thwarted his request. The complaint states that Jamieson first approached prison counselor Kenneth Lechwar, who advised him that no work release program existed at S.C.I., Pittsburgh. Jamieson next approached James F. Howard, the Warden of S.C.I., Pittsburgh, who told him that "we have neither work release nor work release applications. I cannot give you something we don't have." (Inmate's Request to Staff Member, response dated November 30, 1978). At approximately the same time, Jamieson sought an application from the Commissioner of the Bureau of Corrections, William B. Robinson, who responded that not all state correctional institutions have "work release programs" in operation, but that if Jamieson met the necessary criteria for "pre-release status," he could apply through his prison counselor.

Jamieson thereafter filed his complaint against Robinson and Howard, claiming that he was denied the right to apply for a work release program because no such program existed at S.C.I., Pittsburgh, and that the lack of such a program subjected him to invidious discrimination in violation of state law, Bureau of Corrections regulations, and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Jamieson sought a declaratory judgment that he was denied the right to apply for work release and that the absence of a work release program of S.C.I., Pittsburgh abridges the equal protection guarantee. He also requested a preliminary and permanent injunction compelling the defendants to take immediate steps to establish a work release program at S.C.I., Pittsburgh. Jamieson did not seek a reduction in the term of his sentence or damages for the alleged constitutional violations.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 12(b)(6). They asserted that Jamieson's factual contentions were incorrect, and they urged the court to dismiss the complaint as frivolous because Jamieson has no right, constitutional or otherwise, to be released from prison prior to his minimum release date.

In response, Jamieson submitted affidavits from other prisoners which averred that work release programs exist at the state correctional facilities at Graterford and Huntingdon. He also argued that he has a statutory entitlement, pursuant to 61 P.S. § 1051 et seq., to apply for work release, an entitlement that had been frustrated by the defendants. Finally, Jamieson complained that the defendants refused to expand the pre-release program to allow all qualified inmates to participate.

After consideration of the complaint and the motion to dismiss, the magistrate filed a Report and Recommendation that defendants' motion be granted. Focusing on Jamieson's request for the establishment of a work release program at S.C.I., Pittsburgh, the magistrate appears to have concluded that Jamieson should have asserted such a request in a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.*fn1 The Report stated that federal courts lack authority to direct that a state prisoner be permitted to participate in a work release, so long as there is no allegation that the denial is arbitrary or capricious.*fn2 Since no such allegation was set forth in the complaint, the magistrate recommended that defendants' motion to dismiss be granted.

Jamieson filed objections to the magistrate's Report, insisting that it contained three errors. First, Jamieson asserted that contrary to the magistrate's analysis, he was not seeking an order directing the prison authorities to allow him to participate in a work release program. He maintained rather, that the state is under a duty to establish such programs, that it has refused to do so, and that Jamieson sought to correct this omission. Second, Jamieson argued that there was invidious discrimination against inmates at S.C.I., Pittsburgh, because at least two other maximum security facilities in Pennsylvania had established work-release programs, while there was none at S.C.I., Pittsburgh. He noted that he had submitted sworn affidavits to support these contentions and that the magistrate had failed to consider them. Jamieson also objected to the Report on the ground that the magistrate simply ignored his allegations that he was denied his statutory right to apply for a work-release program.

After considering the magistrate's Report and Jamieson's objections to it, the district court, on June 12, 1979, entered an order adopting the Report and dismissing the complaint, Jamieson filed a timely notice of appeal.

On appeal, Jamieson urges that the district court should not have dismissed his complaint unless it appeared beyond a doubt that he could not have established facts that would have entitled him to relief. He again sets forth his claims of invidious discrimination violative of the equal protection clause. Defendants respond that under the applicable "minimal scrutiny" or "rational basis" equal protection analysis, Jamieson's allegations failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. For ...

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