United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
September 12, 2005.
FREDDIE FRANCIS, Plaintiff
D. SCOTT DODRILL, Regional Director; JOSEPH V. SMITH, Warden; T.R. SNZIEZK, Assistant Warden; BECKY CLAY, Captain, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MUNLEY, District Judge
Before the court for disposition are a motion for summary
judgment filed by Defendants D. Scott Dodrill, Joeseph Smith,
T.R. Snziezk, and Barbara Clay, as well as Plaintiff Freddie
Francis' cross motions for summary judgment. These matters have
been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition. For the
following reasons, we will grant the defendants' motion for
summary judgment and enter judgment on their behalf.
Francis is a federal prisoner incarcerated at the United States
Prison at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ("USP-Lewisburg"). On August 2,
2004, he filed a complaint instituting the present action against
D. Scott Dodrill, the Regional Director of the Bureau of Prisons,
Joseph Smith, the USP-Lewisburg Warden, T.R. Sniezk, the
Assistant Warden, and Captain Becky Clay*fn1 (collectively
"Defendants"). Francis alleges that he was improperly transferred
to USP-Lewisburg's Special Management Unit ("SMU"). He was
transferred because of his involvement with a gang, although he claims he was never involved
in gang activity. He was not provided with notice or a hearing
prior to his transfer. He claims that the SMU program is run
without a proper policy or without congressional authorization.
He alleges that his placement in the SMU program violates his
Fifth Amendment due process rights, and constitutes cruel and
unusual punishment in violation of his Eight Amendment rights.
Granting summary judgment is proper if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,
together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Knabe v.
Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n. 4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing FED. R.
CIV. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence
of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not
defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary
judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of
material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).
In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must
examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party
opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v.
Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The
burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the
non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (1986). A fact is
material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the
burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment
may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to
admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the
non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden,
the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its
pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits,
depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.
The defendants present three grounds for their motion. First,
they argue that Francis fails to produce evidence of their
personal involvement in the alleged constitutional violations.
Second, they argue that Francis's placement in the SMU does not
implicate his due process rights because it is not a punitive
unit. Third, they argue that they are entitled to qualified
immunity. Francis has filed cross motions for summary judgment.
We will grant summary judgment for the defendants on the first
two arguments, and thus need not address qualified immunity.
A. Personal Involvement
Francis claims that his placement in the SMU violates his
constitutional rights under the Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Clause and the Due Process Clause. A claim for violations of
constitutional rights is actionable pursuant to Bivens v. Six
Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388
(1971) and is the federal counterpart to
42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn2 To state a claim for a violation of the Cruel and Unusual
Punishment Clause, a prisoner must demonstrate that "he has been
deprived of `the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities'
. . . and that a prison official acted with deliberate
indifference in subjecting him to that deprivation." Griffin v.
Vaughn, 112 F.3d 703, 709 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting Young v.
Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 359 (1992)). A violation of the Due
Process Clause involves the following three elements: "1) the
claimant must be `deprived' of a protectable interest; 2) that
deprivation must be due to some government action; and 3) the
deprivation must be without due process." Cospito v. Heckler,
742 F.2d 72, 80 (3d Cir. 1984). To establish liability under
Bivens, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendants were
personally involved in the deprivation of his rights, and the
theory of respondeat superior is not a basis for liability.
See Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1208 (3d Cir. 1988)
("A defendant in a civil rights action must have personal
involvement in the alleged wrongs; liability cannot be predicated
solely on the operation of respondeat superior.").*fn3
Francis has produced no evidence that Defendants Becky Clay, D.
Scott Dodrill, or T.R. Snziezck were involved in his placement in the SMU, and instead
relies on the doctrine of respondeat superior. Francis'
exhibits contain no allegations regarding these individual
defendants, and his evidence does not reference them in any way.
Thus, we find that Francis has not created a genuine issue of
material fact that these defendants violated his constitutional
rights, and we will grant summary judgment. Francis has, however,
submitted a letter from Defendant Warden Joseph Smith, providing
that his placement in the SMU would be reevaluated. Thus, he has
created a genuine issue of material fact that Smith had
sufficient personal involvement in his placement in the SMU, and
we will not grant summary judgment for Smith on this
B. Due Process
The defendants also argue that Francis' placement in the SMU
does not implicate his due process rights. We agree. A due
process liberty interest "in avoiding particular conditions of
confinement may arise from state policies or regulations."
Wilkinson v. Austin, 125 S. Ct. 2384, 2393 (2005). The Due
Process Clause protects a prisoner's right to "freedom from
restraint, which, while not exceeding the sentence in such an
unexpected manner as to give rise to protection by the Due
Process Clause of its own force, nonetheless imposes atypical and
significant hardship in relation to the ordinary incidents of
prison life." Id. at 2394 (quoting Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995)).
The proper focus for determining whether prison conditions give
rise to a due process liberty interest is the nature of the
conditions, not mandatory language in prison regulations.
Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484. In Sandin, an inmate was charged
with violating prison regulations. Id. at 475. At a hearing,
the hearing committee refused the inmate's request to present
witnesses. Id. The committee found the inmate guilty and
sentenced him to disciplinary segregation. Id. The inmate
sought review, and a deputy administrator found some of the
charges unfounded and expunged his disciplinary record. Id. at
476. Thereafter, the inmate filed suit pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a deprivation of procedural due process during the
disciplinary hearing. Id. The Tenth Circuit found that he had a
protected liberty interest because it interpreted the prison
regulations to require that the committee find substantial
evidence of misconduct before imposing segregation. Id. at 477.
The Supreme Court reversed, finding no liberty interest. Id. at
484. In doing so, it rejected an approach that focused on whether
the prison regulation went "beyond issuing mere procedural
guidelines and has used `language of an unmistakably mandatory
character' such that the incursion on liberty would not occur
`absent specified substantive predicates.'" Id. at 480 (quoting
Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 471-72 (1983)). The Court found
this approach undesirable because it created a disincentive for
prison administrators to codify prison management procedures and
because it "led to the involvement of federal courts in the
day-to-day management of prisons, often squandering judicial
resources with little offsetting benefit to anyone." Id. at
482. Thus, the Court held liberty interests "will be generally
limited to freedom from restraint which, while not exceeding the sentence in such an unexpected manner as to give rise to
protection by the Due Process Clause of its own force . . .
nonetheless imposes atypical and significant hardship on the
inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life."
Id. at 484. In applying this test, the Court observed,
"[d]iscipline by prison officials in response to a wide range of
misconduct falls within the expected perimeters of the sentence
imposed by a court of law." Id. at 485. The Court then found
that the inmate's disciplinary segregation "did not present a
dramatic departure from the basic condition's of Conner's
indeterminate sentence" because the conditions of disciplinary
segregation were similar to those faced in administrative and
protective custody. Id. at 486.
In Wilkinson v. Austin, 125 S. Ct. 2384, 2393 (2005) the
Court applied the Sandin test and found that the plaintiff's
due process rights were implicated when he was placed in a
almost all human contact is prohibited, even to the
point that conversation is not permitted from cell to
cell; the light, though it may be dimmed, is on for
24 hours; exercise is for 1 hour per day, but only in
a small indoor room. . . . [P]lacement . . . is
indefinite and, after an initial 30 day review, is
reviewed just annually. . . . [P]lacement
disqualifies an otherwise eligible inmate for parole
Id. at 2394-95.
The court found that these harsh conditions "give rise to a
liberty interest in their avoidance." Id. at 2395.
Fraise v. Terhune, 283 F.3d 506 (3d Cir. 2002) applied the
Sandin test and found that avoiding placement in the Security
Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU) in the New Jersey prison
system is not a protected liberty interest. Inmates who the
prison deemed members of groups that posed a security threat were placed in the
STGMU. Id. at 509. "An inmate assigned to the STGMU remains in
maximum custody until the inmate successfully completes a
three-phase behavior modification program." Id. at 511. The
Court found that despite the additional restrictions, prisoners
have no liberty interest in avoiding placement in the STGmU.
Id.; see also Griffin v. Vaughn, 112 F.3d 703, 706 (3d Cir.
1997) (finding that additional restrictions in administrative
custody for a period of fifteen months does not deprive prisoners
of protected liberty interests).
We find that the conditions in the SMU do not remotely approach
the severity of the conditions Wilkinson found to give rise to
a protected liberty interest, and are comparable to the
conditions in cases such as Sandin, Fraise, and Griffin,
which found no protected liberty interest. The SMU program is
"designed to teach inmates self-discipline, prosocial values, and
to facilitate [inmates'] ability to successfully coexist with
members of other geographical, cultural, and religious
backgrounds." (Def. Ex. 2, SMU Inmate Handbook at 1). If inmates
follow the program, they will complete it in twelve to eighteen
months. (Id.). As they progress through the program, their
restrictions decrease until they return to the general
population. (Id.). Failure to comply with the program results
in greater restrictions and increased duration of the program.
(Id.). Inmates are restricted to one telephone call per thirty
days, and may be visited by members of their immediate family
only. (Id. at 2). They may shower three times per week and are
issued razors when they shower. (Id. at 3). They are permitted
hygenie items and supplies such as toothbrushes, toilet paper,
writing paper, and pencils, which are issued by the custody
staff. (Id.). Prisoners are issued three pairs of boxer shorts,
three t-shirts, two towels, three pairs of socks, two sheets, one pillowcase, one
blanket, and a mattress. (Id.). They are limited to one haircut
per month. (Id.). Inmates are allowed five hours of recreation
per week, which they do with a partner. (Id. at 4). They may
retain legal materials so long as they fit within one cubic foot.
(Id.). They also may retain basic educational materials. (Id.
at 4-5). Every twenty-one days the prisoners are moved to a new
cell. (Id. at 5). Significantly, the disciplinary system in the
SMU is nearly identical to that of the rest of the prison system.
The disciplinary system for the entire Bureau of Prisons contains
the same categories of offenses, the same prohibited acts, the
same punishments, and the same procedures as those in the SMU.
Compare Id. at 5-18, with 28 C.F.R. § 541.13-19.
Francis submits evidence that inmates in his block are
permitted to shower only three days per week whereas other
inmates shower every day. (Pl. Ex. 4, Francis Decl. ¶ 3). He also
provides that he is permitted to go to the commissary only every
other week, whereas other inmates go every week. (Id.). Inmates
in his block are placed in restraints whenever outside of their
cells, whether they are showering, going for recreation, or going
to the health services department. (Id.). Francis confirms that
inmates who refuse to cooperate remain in administrative custody
for longer periods of time and receive increased restrictions and
decreased privileges. (Id.). He has produced no other evidence
regarding adverse conditions in the SMU. Furthermore, he has
produced no evidence nor even argued that his transfer to the SMU
somehow resulted in a loss of good conduct time credits or
otherwise altered his sentence.
We find that the restrictions in the SMU are no greater than
those in Griffin, 112 F.3d at 708, which the court found unextraordinary. Like the SMU, the
"RHU" inmates in Griffin were restricted to three showers,
three shaves, and five hours of recreation per week. Id. at
707. They were allowed to retain legal materials so long as they
fit in a records box and one religious text. Id. They were
provided with a jumpsuit, footwear, and basic toiletries. Id.
Other than these items, they were prohibited from possessing
property. Id. The duration and restrictions of the program were
adjusted based on the inmates behavior and cooperation. Id. We
find these conditions entirely consistent with the conditions in
Inmates have no due process right to a facility of their
choosing. Young v. Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 358 n. 16 (3d Cir.
1992). The Bureau of Prisons retains sole discretion over where
to place an inmate. 18 U.S.C. § 3621. Inmates do, however, have a
liberty interest in avoiding transfer to facilities where the
conditions impose "atypical and significant hardship on the
inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life."
Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484. This is not such a transfer. We find
that these conditions and the conditions overall in the SMU are
reasonable and proportionate to those in other prisons in the
federal system and across the country, and do not impose an
atypical and significant hardship in relation to the ordinary
incidents of prison life. Using restrictions to promote prosocial
behavior falls within the parameters of a sentence imposed by a
court of law. While Francis clearly would prefer not to be housed
in the SMU, his preference is not a liberty interest protected by
the Due Process Clause. Accordingly, we find no genuine issue of material fact
that Francis has no liberty interest in avoiding placement in the
SMU, and we will grant summary judgment for the defendants. An
appropriate order follows. ORDER
AND NOW, to wit, this 12th day of September 2005, Defendants'
motion for summary judgment (Doc. 20) is hereby GRANTED and
Plaintiff's motions for summary judgment (Doc. 24, 26) are hereby
DENIED. The Clerk of Courts is hereby directed to enter
judgment on behalf of the defendants and to close this case in
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