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Jon andresen v. County of Northampton

October 31, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Savage, J.


In this civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff, Jon-Christopher Smith Andresen ("Andresen"), contends that he was incarcerated beyond his release date in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. He claims that the defendants refused to give him credit for his "street time," or time spent on parole, after he was recommitted to prison for violation of parole. He has named as defendants Robert Samberg, the Intake Supervisor/Lieutenant and subsequently the Intake Administrator at Northampton County Prison ("NCP"); Michael Bateman, the Classification Coordinator; Robert Meyers, the Director of Corrections; and Todd Buskirk, the Warden of NCP. He contends that Samberg was deliberately indifferent to his constitutional right to release once he had served his maximum sentence by failing to respond to inquiries and challenges to the miscalculation of the sentence. Andresen claims that the other defendants deprived him of a significant liberty interest by denying him a meaningful review of the calculation of his sentence, and by approving the practices and policies of NCP regarding the calculation of the inmates' sentences.*fn1

All defendants have moved for summary judgment. They argue that the sentence was not miscalculated; but, even if it had been, it does not rise to the level of a deprivation of a constitutional right. They also assert qualified immunity.

We conclude that Andresen's sentence was not miscalculated and his release date was correctly fixed by the prison officials. Consequently, because he was not detained beyond the expiration of his sentence, he suffered no deprivation of his constitutional rights. Therefore, as a matter of law, the defendants are entitled to summary judgment in their favor.

Factual Background*fn2

On July 21, 2007, Andresen was committed to NCP after having been found guilty of criminal trespass.*fn3 On October 16, 2007, Judge McFadden of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County imposed a county prison sentence of ninety days to twenty-three months, with credit for time served.*fn4 On October 19, 2007, after serving his minimum term of imprisonment, Andresen was paroled.*fn5

On May 13, 2008, Andresen was recommitted to NCP for violation of parole.*fn6 On October 10, 2008, after a parole violation hearing, Judge McFadden sentenced

David Penchishen, the intake administrator who originally calculated Andresen's sentence, is not a defendant in this case.

Andresen to serve the balance of his sentence without any credit for street time.*fn7 The sentence was essentially a "time served" or "time-in" sentence. Andresen was released from NCP on the same day.

On April 18, 2009, Andresen was arrested in Lehigh County for theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property.*fn8 On July 14, 2009, Andresen was recommitted to NCP on a parole detainer issued by the Northampton County court.*fn9 On July 31, 2009, after finding that Andresen had again violated his parole, Judge McFadden sentenced him to serve the balance of his October 16 sentence, with "credit for time that's due to him."*fn10 As noted in the General Remarks section of the Common Pleas docket, the sentence imposed was "Balance of Sentence, Credit TS, Eligible for Work Release."*fn11

David Penchishen, the Intake Administrator at NCP responsible for calculating inmates' sentences at the time, reviewed the sentencing sheet and calculated Andresen's release date as October 13, 2010.*fn12 Penchishen did not apply any credit for street time because he understood a defendant serving a county sentence,*fn13 that is, a sentence with a maximum term of less than two years, was not entitled to such a credit.*fn14

Penchishen's calculation of the sentence, specifically, his decision not to credit Andresen's street time, is at the heart of this dispute. Andresen was on parole after his release from prison on October 10, 2008 until his arrest on April 18, 2009. Had he been credited with this time spent on the street, his sentence would have expired after serving nine months instead of the sixteen months he served.

In September 2009, when he perceived what he believed was an error in his release date calculation, Andresen requested a meeting with Mary Williams, a prison counselor.*fn15 Williams informed Andresen that his release date was correct.*fn16 Andresen then sent a request slip addressed to Bateman, Deputy Warden of Classification for NCP, regarding the calculation of his release.*fn17 After receiving Andresen's slip, Bateman spoke to Andresen about his concerns and directed him to Samberg, who was then the Intake Administrator.*fn18 Samberg reported to Bateman that he was reviewing Andresen's sentence calculation.*fn19

In January 2010, Andresen met with Samberg and Robin Stanley to address his concerns.*fn20 Samberg, concluding that Andresen's sentence was calculated correctly, did not give him credit for street time.*fn21 As did Penchishen, Samberg believed that street time could not be credited to a county sentence.*fn22

Samberg conferred with Robert Meyers, the Director of Corrections, about Andresen's sentence.*fn23 Meyers also concluded that Andresen's sentence was calculated correctly.*fn24

On May 12, 2010, Andresen filed a Motion for Credit for Time Served with the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas.*fn25 On June 7, 2010, after a hearing, Judge McFadden granted the motion. She ordered NCP to recalculate Andresen's sentence, giving him credit for the time he was on the street and for twenty-eight days spent in an inpatient facility.*fn26 Four days later, Andresen was released, having served approximately ten months ...

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