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Garrett Williams v. Jeffrey A. Beard

November 1, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Blewitt

(Judge Conner)


I. Background.

On August 17, 2009, Plaintiff Garrett Williams, while an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Mercer (SCI-Mercer"), and in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), filed, through counsel, this civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 (Doc. 1). Plaintiff paid the filing fee. Named as Defendants are Jeffrey A. Beard, Secretary of the DOC, and Catherine McVey, Chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole ("PBPP"). (Doc. 1, pp. 2-3). Plaintiff sues both Defendants only in their official capacities. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 and §1343.

On September 8, 2009, Defendants jointly filed an Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint with Affirmative Defenses. (Doc. 5). Also, on September 8, 2009, Defendants jointly filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). (Doc. 6). On October 13, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). (Doc. 10).

Both motions have been briefed, with attachments, and are ripe for disposition. (Docs. 7, 11, 15, 17, 19, 20, & 22).*fn2

II. Admitted Allegations of Complaint.

Based on Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1) and Defendants' Answer (Doc. 5) to it, the following pertinent allegations are admitted:

2. The plaintiff, Garrett Williams, is a Pennsylvania resident incarcerated in the State Regional Correctional Facility at Mercer. As described below, he [Plaintiff] has been granted parole by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole on the condition that he secures a placement/bed in a community residential center prior to his release from prison.

5. The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole has the power under Pennsylvania law to enter into contracts to purchase community services to assist state parolees, including contracts to lease residential facilities in communities within which to house inmates who are being conditionally paroled.

6. Over the course of many years, the Parole Board has relied on community correction residences or group home residences (often referred to as community correction centers or CCR's) either operated or supervised by the Department of Corrections when conditioning the release of certain offenders granted parole. Under such conditional circumstances, paroled offenders may be released on parole only if they obtain occupancy in a CCR.

7. CCR's are principally operated by private contractors who respond to requests for proposals from the Department of Corrections. They are geographically distributed throughout Pennsylvania.

8. The Department of Corrections, through its Bureau of Community Corrections [BCC], also directly operates CCR's with BCC staff in certain locations.

9. It is admitted that sex offenders are not housed in privately owned CCCs under contract with the Department of Corrections.

15. When CCR's are willing to accept sex offenders, they have limited the number of placements or beds assigned to sex offenders.

16. CCR's have not so restricted any other category of paroled offender.

17. Opposition by the community, including restrictions placed on sex offender occupancy, is a factor in the limited number of CCC beds available to sex offenders.

18. The BCC is administered regionally - - Region I covering the immediate Philadelphia area, Region II covering the rest of eastern and all of central Pennsylvania, and Region III covering western Pennsylvania.

19. Typically sex offenders approved for parole are only considered for CCR placement in the region they lived in prior to incarceration.

22. It is admitted that Plaintiff was arrested in late 1999 and convicted in early 2000 for raping his eleven year old daughter. It is further admitted that he has undergone sex offender treatment and is obligated to continue treatment on parole.

23. On May 15, 2008, the PBPP determined that there is no reasonable indication that Williams poses a risk to public safety and that the interests of the Commonwealth will not be injured by the grant of parole to him. Accordingly, parole was granted Plaintiff Williams on that date conditioned on initial CCR residency and participation in outpatient treatment.

25. In June of 2008, Williams rented an apartment in Philadelphia. This apartment was investigated by Parole Board personnel the following month.

28. Non sex offenders who have been granted parole conditioned on initial CCR residency are routinely released within a matter of weeks.

29. [I]t is admitted that some sex offenders reach their maximum sentence because of an unavailability of bed space at a CCC, it is denied that this is "common."

30. [Plaintiff] Williams has now been awaiting release for fourteen months. His maximum sentence will not be reached until July 2015. Release at that time will additionally be without the benefit, afforded non sex offenders, of community reintegration.

In his Complaint, Plaintiff raises an equal protection claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, a due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, and a claim under the Federal Fair Housing Act ("FHA"). (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9). As his equal protection claim, Plaintiff avers that Defendants have treated "[him] and other sex offenders who have been granted parole in a substantially more adverse manner than non sex offenders who have been granted parole." Plaintiff also avers that Defendants have administered the distribution of Community Correction Centers or Residences ("CCR") placements in a manner that is arbitrary and capricious in violation of his due process rights. Further, Plaintiff avers that, based on his unspecified "mental impairment, as well as societal stereotypes of sex offenders as mentally impaired individuals ...," "[he] is a disabled person within the meaning of the [FHA] and, thus protected by the [FHA]'s prohibitions against discriminating against disabled persons with respect to housing opportunities." (Id., p. 9).

As relief, Plaintiff requests, in part, as follows: enter a judgment declaring that the actions of the defendants have violated his rights under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the Fair Housing Act; enjoin the defendants from continuing to violate his rights; award him the costs, expenses and attorneys fees associated with the prosecution of this case; (Id.).

III. Section 1983 Standard.

In a § 1983 civil rights action, the Plaintiff must prove the following two essential elements:

(1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and

(2) that the conduct complained of deprived the Plaintiff of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the law or the Constitution of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F. 3d 176, 184 (3d Cir. 1993). Further, Section 1983 is not a source of substantive rights. Rather, it is a means to redress violations of federal law by state actors. Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002).*fn3 See also Holocheck v. Luzerne County Head Start, Inc., 385 F. Supp. 2d 491, 498-499 (M. D. Pa.).

It is well established that personal liability under section 1983 cannot be imposed upon a state official based on a theory of respondeat superior. See, e.g., Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976); Hampton v. Holmesburg Prison Officials, 1546 F.2d 1077, 1082 (3d Cir. 1976); Parratt, supra. It is also well settled in the Third Circuit that personal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a requirement in a § 1983 case and that a complaint must allege such personal involvement. Id. Each named defendant must be shown, through the complaint's allegations, to have been personally involved in the events or occurrences upon which Plaintiff's claims are based. Id. As the Court stated in Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1998):

A defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs . . . . [P]ersonal involvement can be shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence. Allegations of participation or actual knowledge and acquiescence, however, must be made with appropriate particularity. (Citations omitted).

A civil rights complaint must state time, place, and responsible persons. Id. Courts have also held that an allegation seeking to impose liability on a defendant based on supervisory status, without more, will not subject the official to section 1983 liability. See Rode, 845 F.2d at 1208.*fn4

IV. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Standard.

In Faylor v. Szupper, 2009 WL 2982646, *4 (W.D. Pa.), the Court stated:

A motion for judgment on the pleadings is subject to the same standard as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Mele, supra, 359 F.3d at 253. Thus, we will view all facts presented in the pleadings in a light most favorable to the non-movant. Id. A motion for judgment on the pleadings will not be granted "unless the moving party has established that there is no ...

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