United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D
September 17, 1971
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EX REL. LUTHER W. MILLER, # 58619, PETITIONER,
JOHN J. TWOMEY, WARDEN ILLINOIS STATE PENITENTIARY STATEVILLE BRANCH, JOLIET, ILLINOIS, RESPONDENT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marovitz, District Judge.
Motion to Dismiss
This is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus by a prisoner
presently incarcerated at Illinois State Penitentiary,
Stateville, Joliet, Illinois, pursuant to a lawful conviction for
armed robbery from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Prisoner is
seeking release from "B" house lock-up (a mode of segregation
designated for more difficult to handle prisoners wherein
privileges available to the general prison population are
curtailed and limited), on the grounds that he was confined
therein without regard to due process of law and that conditions
in "B" house are such that they constitute a form of cruel and
unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
How petitioner came to be so segregated is relevant. On June
25, 1971 a minor riot broke out in the recreation area between
guards and prisoners and consequently the warden placed the
entire prison, including petitioner, on "dead-lock", a maximum
security procedure whereby prisoners are kept in their cells
under twenty-four hour lock-in. The justification for this
procedure was to provide for a "cooling-off" period and to
prevent any further threat to prison security. (Respondent's
Exhibit A, p. 2). On July 7, 1971 petitioner was transferred to
Cell House "B", on restricted status subsequent to a review of
his prison record by prison officials. The stated grounds for his
segregation, which was communicated to him on August 14, 1971,
was his repeated infractions of prison rules and his threat to
prison security. (Respondent's Exhibit A, p. 5.)
Both objectively and subjectively petitioner's claim that there
was a lack of due process in the procedure that confined him to
"B" house fails to allege facts which rise to the denial of a
constitutional right. Generally, this court will not second guess
penological judgements which are wholly within the expertise of
prison officials, and absent any clear or blatant violation of
due process the federal court will not interfere with prison
administration. "There is no doubt that discipline and
administration of state detention facilities are state
functions." Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483 at 486, 89 S.Ct. 747,
at 749, 21 L.Ed.2d 718. Courts have long been reluctant to meddle
in the affairs of state penitentiaries, where broad discretion
must be allowed if the efficacy of penal measures are not to be
impaired. "The power of promulgating regulations necessary for
the safety of the prison population * * * is vested in correction
officials with expertise in the field and not in the courts.
There can be no question that they must be granted wide
discretion in the exercise of such authority." Long v. Parker,
390 F.2d 816 at 820 (3rd Cir. 1968). Where an imminent and real
threat to security in the prison exists this discretion is all
the more broad and flexible. Fortune Society v. McGinnis,
319 F. Supp. 901 (S.D.N.Y. 1970). Carter v. McGinnis, 320 F. Supp. 1092
This court is no stranger to both procedure and conditions at
Stateville Prison. In Adams v. Pate, 70 C 474 a Civil Rights suit
pursuant to 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1983, 1985, this court reviewed the
basic administrative procedure utilized in segregating prisoners
at the same prison wherein present petitioner is incarcerated and
found that procedure to conform with due process requirements.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in affirming our conclusions
said "* * * the administrative action here involved
* * * would appear to fairly and rationally satisfy the concept
of procedural due process." Adams v. Pate, 445 F.2d 105 (7th Cir.
1971). Similarly, in Sostre v. McGinnis, 442 F.2d 178 (2nd Cir.
1971), the court in carefully considering the due process
requirements in segregating prisoners in the New York
penitentiary found the procedure used, much akin to those used in
Illinois, to be adequate.
In view of the fact that the petitioner does have a long record
of prison infractions (Respondent's Exhibit A pp. 9-11), that
there was an imminent threat to prison security and considering
the rule of judicial deference to state penological decisions we
have no alternative but to dismiss the portion of the petition as
regards his allegations of lack of due process.
We are likewise compelled to dismiss petitioner's claims
relating to cruel and unusual punishment. It is undisputed that
segregated confinement does not itself violate the Constitution.
Burns v. Swenson, 430 F.2d 771 (8th Cir. 1970); United States ex
rel. Knight v. Ragen, 337 F.2d 425 (7th Cir. 1964), cert. denied
380 U.S. 985, 85 S.Ct. 1355, 14 L. Ed.2d 277.
Petitioner's description of conditions at Stateville are not
new to this court. In Adams v. Pate, supra, the petitioner
submitted a thorough list of conditions in disciplinary
confinements at Stateville, the same segregated confinement
wherein present petitioner is confined. Upon closely scrutinizing
petitioner's contentions we found that no cruel or unusual
punishment did in fact exist, though conditions were indeed far
from ideal or tolerable. In affirming that finding the Court of
Appeals said, "While these alleged cell conditions undoubtedly
would make confinement in such quarters unpleasant, they do not
constitute conditions `so foul, so inhuman and so violative of
basic concepts of decency' to fall within the proscriptions of
the Eighth Amendment. Wright v. McMann [2nd Cir.,] 387 F.2d 519.
They are far removed from the conditions of confinement which led
to the contrary conclusions in Wright v. McMann, and the similar
cases, such as Jordan v. Fitzharris, 257 F. Supp. 674 (N.D.Cal.
1966), relied upon by the plaintiff." Adams v. Pate, 445 F.2d 105
(7th Cir. 1971).
It might well be that our "basic concepts of decency" as
regards prison conditions have not kept apace with the moral
standards of our times. No doubt the unnecessary severity of
prison life tends to infuriate rather than rehabilitate as
witness the recent events at Attica Prison, in New York. Yet the
source of alleviation of these conditions cannot be the federal
court when those conditions fall short of the cruel and unusual
punishment proscribed by the Eighth Amendment. As the court in
Sostre v. McGinnis, supra, aptly put it after examining
conditions of confinement similar to those alleged by petitioner,
"For a federal court, however, to place a punishment beyond the
power of a state to impose on an inmate is a drastic interference
with the state's free political and administrative processes."
442 F.2d 178 at 191.
While not in any sense condoning conditions at Stateville we
are compelled to dismiss this petition for failure to allege
facts that rise to the denial of either due process of law or
freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.
The respondent's motion to dismiss is granted. The petition for
a writ of habeas corpus is denied.
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