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Charles S. Renchenski v. Thomas Williams

August 16, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard P. Conaboy United States District Judge

:(JUDGE CONABOY) :(Magistrate Judge Smyser)


Here we consider Magistrate Judge J. Andrew Smyser's June 21, 2001, Report and Recommendation (Doc. 139) concerning Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 134). Finding Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, Magistrate Judge Smyser recommends that the Court grant Defendants' motion and close this case. (Doc. 139 at 16.) Plaintiff timely filed Objections to Magistrate's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 141) on July 2, 2012, and Defendants filed Defendants' Brief in Opposition to Plaintiff's Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 144) on August 1, 2012. Plaintiff did not file a reply and the time for doing so has passed. Therefore, this matter is ripe for disposition. For the reasons discussed below, we adopt the Report and Recommendation (Doc. 139) as modified and grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 134).

I. Background

B. Statement of Facts

With their summary judgment motion, Defendants filed Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts (Doc. 135). Plaintiff did not file a document responding to each of Defendants' numbered paragraphs as required by Local Rule 56.1 of the Local Rule of Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania. However, in his "Brief in Opposition to Defendant's [sic] Statement of Undisputed Facts and Consolidated Brief in Opposition to Summary Judgment" (Doc. 137), Plaintiff noted opposition to several "undisputed material facts" set out by Defendants in their Statement of Undisputed Facts (Doc. 135). In the factual recitation set out below, we will note the parties' disagreements.

At all relevant times, Plaintiff was incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township ("SCI-Coal Township"). (Doc. 135 ¶ 1.) Defendants are SCI-Coal Township Superintendent Joseph Piazza, former Superintendent Frank Gillis, Grievance Officer Kandis Descani, Counselor Thomas Williams, Unit Manager Larry Kaskie, Psychologist John Sidler, Chief Grievance Officer Sharon Burks, and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (hereinafter "DOC officials"). (Doc. 135 ¶ 2.)

On January 30, 1985, Plaintiff was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole following his conviction for first degree murder. (Doc. 135 ¶ 3.) The official version of the crime indicates Plaintiff was engaged in a sexual act with the victim when the homicide occurred. (Doc. 135 ¶ 10.) During the course of the sex act, the victim was choked and beaten numerous times about the head, breast and genital area, and the victim's breast and nipple were slashed with a razor blade. (Id.)

Upon incarceration, Correctional Plans are developed for inmates based upon their initial classification and summary evaluations, including psychological and educational assessments as well as consideration of the nature and underlying circumstances of the offense for which the inmate is incarcerated. (Doc. 135 ¶ 4.) A Correctional Plan is developed for every inmate by the DOC Treatment team which includes recommended programming based upon the inmates individual rehabilitative needs. (Id.)

Defendants characterize an inmate's participation in the specific program as voluntary. (Doc. 135 ¶ 5.) However, both Plaintiff and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals disagree (Doc. 137 ¶ 1 (citing 622 F.3d at 322, 330).)

Before 1999, no standardized sex offender treatment program was used by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") for inmates who were sex offenders, had a history of sex offenses, or offenses that had a sexual component. (Doc. 135 ¶ 6.) In November 1999, the DOC instituted the Sex Offenders Treatment Program ("SOTP"). (Doc. 135 ¶ 7.) Defendants aver that all inmates serving prison terms related to sex offenses and inmates who had a prior history of sexual offenses or the nature of underlying circumstances of their offense contained a sexual component were prescribed sex offender programming as part of the SOTP. In response, Plaintiff notes the following: the record clearly indicates he was not serving time related to a sex offense nor did he have a prior history of sex offenses; and, as found by the Third Circuit, no "sexual component" of his offense listed by Defendants is relevant to sex offender treatment and classification. (Doc. 137 ¶ 2.)

At the time of Plaintiff's reception into the DOC in 1985, no standardized SOTP was in place. (Doc. 135 ¶ 11.) However, his Correctional Plan or Prescriptive Program noted areas of concern as drug and alcohol, assault and sexual. (Id.) The decision to recommend Plaintiff for sex offender programs was based upon the Treatment team's evaluation of him coupled with the sexual nature of his offense. (Doc. 135 ¶ 12.) At the time his programming was designated, it was in accordance with DOC policies and law. (Id.)

In June 2005, Plaintiff was notified about participation in a SOTP and he refused, stating that he was never charged with or convicted of a sex offense. (Doc. 135 ¶ 13.) In October 2005, he was informed he was recommended for SOTP because the official version of his crime indicates a sexual component as he was engaged in a sexual act with the victim when the homicide occurred. (Doc. 135 ¶ 14.) Defendants aver Plaintiff was further informed that his counselor made a recommendation to the Psychology Department that Plaintiff be assessed to determine whether or not he needed Sex Offender programming based on the nature of the events surrounding his crime. (Doc. 135 ¶ 15.) Plaintiff disputes Defendants' statement, asserting that Defendants attempt to make it appear that Counselor Williams was acting in accord with DOC policies but this assertion is refuted by the record and the Third Circuit's decision. (Doc. 137 ¶ 3.) Plaintiff maintains that Williams mandated programming without any type of assessment or involvement of any staff members and other staff members did not get involved until Plaintiff complained about Williams' actions. (Id.)

Plaintiff's refusal to participate in the SOTP assessment did not affect his parole status because he is serving a sentence of life without parole. (Doc. 135 ¶ 16.) Defendants maintain that, although Plaintiff's name appeared on the institutional sex offender's roster as a possible sex offender, he was not classified as a sex offender. (Id.) Plaintiff takes issue with this assessment of his classification, citing the Third Circuit's opinion that Defendant's characterization contradicts DOC's own policy which provides that "'every inmate who refuses assessment and/or treatment shall be identified as falling in the Moderate/High risk category [of sex offender].'" (Doc. 137 ¶ 4 (citing Renchenski, 622 F.3d at 322).)

Currently, Plaintiff is no longer recommended for SOTP assessment. (Doc. 135 ¶ 25.)

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed the above-captioned case on February 6, 2006, claiming harm related to prison sex offender status designation and treatment programming. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on June 28, 2006, in which he raised claims against various state actors and agencies under the Fifth Amendment, Sixth Amendment, Eighth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment Due ...

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