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WEISS v. MADER

November 4, 1981

Joseph WEISS
v.
William MADER, et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GILES

MEMORANDUM

 The relief requested is a declaratory judgment that plaintiff's constitutional rights have been violated and an order: (1) enjoining the funding of educational programs for the year commencing July 1, 1981 until the court approves an equitable distribution of funds on a per capita basis; (2) reinstating all the funds to Graterford which were withheld as determined by a court-ordered audit of the Correction Education division's books; and (3) requiring the monies designated for Graterford to be spent on Graterford's needs and dispersed on a per capita basis. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction essentially repeating the contentions set forth in his complaint and additionally alleging that he will suffer irreparable harm if denied the rehabilitation benefits of education.

 Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that judgment in their favor is appropriate as a matter of law since plaintiff has not alleged facts sufficient to establish a deprivation of an interest protected by either the due process or equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff responds that the diversion of educational funds allocated to Graterford constituted a deprivation of a property interest without procedural due process protections. He further asserts that the failure to allocate funds on a per capita basis violates his right to equal protection since such an allocation method lacks a rational basis.

 After careful consideration of the papers submitted by the parties and the pleadings filed to date, I agree with defendants and grant defendants' motion for summary judgment for the following reasons. My holding renders moot plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction.

 It is undisputed that plaintiff is a prison inmate at Graterford, over 21 years of age, who has an educational background which exceeds the level of courses offered at Graterford. Plaintiff claims to have been denied post-secondary educational opportunities at Graterford.

 Initially, defendants raise the issue of standing, contending that plaintiff lacks standing, since he has not demonstrated or the requisite "personal stake in the outcome" of the case. Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S. Ct. 691, 703, 7 L. Ed. 2d 663 (1962). However, I find that plaintiff has standing. He is an inmate at a correctional facility who desires to participate in educational programs. He alleges that the funding policies of defendants have denied him access to these programs in violation of constitutional rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

 Defendants have not asserted that post-secondary education programs for which plaintiff qualifies are beyond the ambit of the educational rehabilitation programs which are subject to defendant's funding policies. Thus, the alleged funding policies may well have deprived plaintiff of an opportunity to participate in educational rehabilitation programs. Accordingly, plaintiff has demonstrated a personal stake in the outcome of this case sufficient to grant him standing.

 Plaintiff bases his claim for relief on two different theories. He claims (1) that diversion of funds allocated to Graterford for educational purposes deprived him of a property interest protected by the due process clause; and (2) that his rights to equal protection were violated by allocation of funds on a basis other than a per capita basis.

 I shall treat separately plaintiff's claims.

 Courts which have considered the question generally hold that prisoners enjoy no constitutional right to educational opportunities per se. Hayes v. Cuyler, 475 F. Supp. 1347 (E.D.Pa.1979); Diehl v. Wainwright, 419 F.2d 1309 (5th Cir. 1970); Breedlove v. Cripe, 511 F. Supp. 467 (N.D.Tex.1981); Jordon v. Keve, 387 F. Supp. 765 (D.Del.1974); U. S. ex rel. Cleggett v. Pate, 229 F. Supp. 818 (N.D.Ill.1964); Ahrens v. Thomas, 434 F. Supp. 873 (W.D.Mo.1977), aff'd in part and modified in part, 570 F.2d 286 (8th Cir. 1978).

 However, plaintiff contends that even though there may be no constitutional right standing alone, once the state chooses to provide funds for educational rehabilitation, the plaintiff obtains a "property interest" in those funds which cannot be denied without due process of law. It is fundamental that before a "property interest" is created within the meaning of the due process clause, plaintiff must have a claim of entitlement to the property, stemming from an independent source such as state law. Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577, 92 S. Ct. 2701, 2709, 33 L. Ed. 2d 548 (1972); Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593, 596-98, 92 S. Ct. 2694, 2696-2698, 33 L. Ed. 2d 570 (1972); Bishop v. Wood, 426 U.S. 341, 343-47, 96 S. Ct. 2074, 2076-2078, 48 L. Ed. 2d 684 (1976). Here, plaintiff has provided no authority or evidence to establish a "claim of entitlement" to the educational funds allocated to Graterford, sufficient to create a "property interest" in his favor.

 Moreover, there is undisputed evidence that even if such an interest exists, it was never violated by the state. The affidavit of William Mader, Chief, Correction Education Division, Pennsylvania Department of Education, asserts that "contrary to plaintiff's allegation, large sums of money that had originally been designated to educate inmates at Graterford, have not been unlawfully diverted from that institution. Furthermore, during the period of time June 1, 1980 through June 30, 1981 an additional $ ...


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