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Gregory Bell Jasaan Walker v. Warden Vincent Mooney

August 5, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III



This pro se civil rights action was initiated by Plaintiffs Gregory Bell ("Bell") and Jasaan Walker ("Walker") by filing a Complaint under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) At the time of filing, Bell and Walker were inmates at the Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Along with their Complaint, Bell and Walker filed a Motion requesting leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) and authorization (Doc. 3) to allow funds to be deducted from their inmate accounts to pay the filing fee. However, their requests were not filed on the proper forms.*fn1 Accordingly, by Administrative Order dated June 27, 2011, Plaintiffs were directed within thirty (30) days to each either pay the $350.00 filing fee or file a properly completed application to proceed in forma pauperis and an authorization form. (Doc. 6.) A footnote in the Order explained that, pursuant to Hagan v. Rogers, 570 F.3d 146 (3d Cir. 2009), the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), requires that, where prisoner plaintiffs jointly file a civil rights action, each prisoner is required to pay the full filing fee. (Id. n.1.) The footnote also explained that this Court would dismiss without prejudice all Plaintiffs who do not complete and return the properly completed forms to proceed in forma pauperis. (Id.)

On July 5, 2011, Walker filed a properly completed Motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 7) and an authorization form (Doc. 8). Thus, on July 6, 2011, an Administrative Order was sent to the Warden of the Lackawanna County Prison directing the Warden to begin deducting funds from Walker's inmate account to pay the filing fee. (Doc. 9.) The deadline for Bell to comply with the June 27, 2011 Administrative Order has expired, and he neither has made an appropriate submission nor requested an extension of time in which to do so. Accordingly, we shall dismiss Bell as a party to this action.

Based on Walker's request to proceed in forma pauperis, the Complaint presently is before us for screening under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915. For the reasons set forth below, we shall grant Walker's request for in forma pauperis status for the sole purpose of filing the Complaint and dismiss the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Walker also has filed a Motion for a Protective Order seeking an Order transferring him to the State Correctional Institution at Dallas ("SCI Dallas"), which will be denied without prejudice for the reasons explained below.


In their Complaint, which is dated June 18, 2011 and was filed on June 24, 2011, Plaintiffs name the following Defendants: Vincent Mooney, Warden of the Lackawanna County Prison; Linda McClain, operator of the inmate telephone system at the Lackawanna County Prison; and Inmate Telephone Incorporated ("ITI"), the telephone service provider for the Lackawanna County Prison.

Plaintiffs allege that they have made verbal complaints and have filed multiple grievances concerning the inmate telephone system at the Lackawanna County Prison. (Doc. 1 at 4.) They state that on June 16, 2011, they were provided with computer generated printouts of their individual inmate telephone records that confirmed their concerns and grievances. (Id.) Plaintiffs specify that they and their loved ones have made complaints about discrepancies in the inmate telephone system, including the disconnecting of Plaintiffs' calls on different occasions while still charging them for an entire phone call rather than for the actual time of the phone call listed on the computer generated printouts. (Id.)

Plaintiffs state that both Defendant McClain and Defendant Mooney were contacted by Plaintiffs through inmate requests and grievances and by Plaintiffs' family members and were made aware of the discrepancies in the inmate telephone system. (Id.) They allege that, "[o]nce one unanswered request/grievance too many were filed by the plaintiff's [sic]," Defendant Mooney ordered Defendant McClain to suspend Bell's telephone privileges indefinitely without notice or any formal misconduct procedures, including a hearing. (Id.) They allege that Bell therefore was deprived of a means to directly contact his family other than by way of mail, and that in stripping him of his telephone privileges, Mooney violated each and every sanction procedure, misused his authority, and retaliated against Bell. (Id.)

Plaintiffs allege that ITI is the telephone service provider for Lackawanna County Prison and that any inmate housed there must deposit money into an inmate account in order to make phone calls, or their families must establish pre-paid accounts with ITI, and therefore, ITI and Lackawanna County Prison split the collection of the monies charged for each and every inmate phone call placed from the Lackwanna County Prison through the ITI System. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that their families contacted ITI about the discrepancies with hang ups, dropped calls, and billing issues, and that ITI has equal duties and responsibility to investigate each and every complaint and to reimburse any parties for these discrepancies. (Id.)

Plaintiffs allege that the Lackawanna County Prison and ITI failed to address the concerns raised by Plaintiffs as to the aforementioned discrepancies, thus leaving them with no recourse other than to file the instant civil rights action. (Id.)

As relief, Bell requests that Defendants pay the entire filing fee for this action as well as fees for any legal representation. (Id. at 5.) He also requests compensation due to cruel and unusual punishment and emotional distress, as well as reimbursement for the overbilling for dropped phone calls. (Id.)

Walker seeks reimbursement for overbilling for dropped calls as well as a transfer to a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") facility due to a fear of retaliation. (Id.) He also seeks damages for ...

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