or on exceedingly complex issues, none of which are involved in
In some circumstances, a pro se plaintiff may be unaware of his
obligation to go beyond his complaint in order to oppose a motion
for summary judgment. It is for the benefit of such a legal
novice that the courts are hesitant to technically apply
procedural rules. From the drafting and makeup of the complaint,
it is apparent that these plaintiffs are aware of the legal
issues and procedures. The original complaint was verified by one
of the plaintiffs, plaintiffs have filed affidavits in support of
their motions, and they have appealed orders of this court. In
their motions plaintiffs have demonstrated a knowledge of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and have relied thereon to
support their positions. In addition, plaintiffs were notified of
the time limits in which they had to respond to defendants'
motion for summary judgment. The plaintiffs in our case cannot be
classified as unsophisticated pro se prisoners who have no
knowledge of the legal system.
Subparagraphs E(v.-vii.) of paragraph 12 of the complaint make
allegations concerning the handling of inmate mail. The specific
complaints are that privileged legal mail is censored and
indiscriminately opened outside the presence of the inmate, and
that personal mail is delayed, lost, or damaged. Plaintiffs have
alleged no specific factual incidents. Construing these
allegations liberally, as Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 92
S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972), required on a motion to dismiss
a pro se prisoner complaint, they may be interpreted as either
alleging that the prison procedure is improper or that on
occasion the prison employees do not follow the official prison
policy. Under either interpretation, defendants are entitled to
Illinois Department of Corrections Administrative Regulation
823, attached to defendants' motion, outlines the procedures with
respect to inmate mail privileges. The regulation concerning
privileged legal mail forbids censorship and provides for the
opening of this mail in the presence of the inmate. The
regulations also require the prompt handling of all mail, with
distribution within twenty-four hours after its examination for
contraband. Only mail containing contraband is held up by the
prison authorities. In addition, all inmate complaints concerning
mail privileges are to be resolved in an expeditious manner.
These procedures, established by the administrative regulations,
clearly meet the appropriate constitutional standards. Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974);
Bach v. Illinois, 504 F.2d 1100 (7th Cir. 1974); Adams v.
Carlson, 488 F.2d 619 (7th Cir. 1973).
Marion E. Larson, the Mail Office Supervisor at Pontiac, states
in his affidavit that incoming inmate mail is processed in
accordance with the applicable administrative regulations. Major
Louis O. Lowery, Chief of Security at Pontiac, states in his
affidavit that privileged inmate mail is handled in accordance
with the official procedure established by the administrative
regulations and that all officers are instructed as to this
procedure and follow it.
Subparagraph M(i) of paragraph 12 of the complaint alleges that
inmates are placed in segregation without the benefit of a
hearing. In Wolff, supra, the Supreme Court outlined the
requirements due process imposes on prison disciplinary
proceedings, and expressly noted, 418 U.S. 571 n. 19, 94 S.Ct.
2982, that the outlined procedure applied to the imposition of
solitary confinement. Implicit in the Wolff procedure is a
requirement for a hearing. In his affidavit, J.W. Fairman, the
current warden at Pontiac, presents the procedures for placing an
inmate in segregation. This procedure, which Warden Fairman
states is followed, clearly includes a hearing for the inmate
before he is placed in segregation. This hearing is sufficient
under the requirements established in Wolff. Contrary to
the unsupported statement in the complaint, it appears without
doubt that inmates are afforded a disciplinary hearing before
being placed in segregation, and there are no genuine issues
remaining for trial on this allegation.
Subparagraph N of paragraph 12 of the complaint concerns the
safety of inmates in light of the allegedly overcrowded and
understaffed facilities at Pontiac. The essence of these
allegations is that there are insufficient guards on patrol to
prevent confrontations among inmates. Plaintiffs' allegations in
this regard are of a general nature, without any recitation of
specific factual incidents. These allegations of overcrowding at
Pontiac are not new to this court. Similar allegations concerning
the prison population at Pontiac were made in Stansbury v.
Illinois, No. 78-1051 through 78-1072 (consolidated) (C.D.Ill.
1978). In resolution of the claims in Stansbury, this court
entered a consent decree in which limitations were placed upon
the assignment of prisoners and on the total population at
Pontiac. Pursuant to the decree, this court has continued to
monitor conditions at Pontiac and has appointed an independent
organization to periodically inspect the facilities and report
directly to the court on compliance. The consent decree was
agreed to and entered on September 29, 1978, subsequent to the
initial filing of the complaint in this case. Defendants have
presented the affidavit of Ron Ashby, Assistant Warden of
Programs at Pontiac, who states that the population and
assignment requirements of the Stansbury decree are followed.
To the extent that the allegations of this subparagraph raise
issues beyond the scope of the Stansbury decree, they concern the
internal operations of the prison, which are, absent exceptional
circumstances, left to the discretion of the State. U.S. ex rel.
Miller v. Twomey, 479 F.2d 701 (7th Cir. 1973); U.S. v. Ragen,
337 F.2d 425 (7th Cir. 1964); Inmates of Attica v. Rockefeller,
453 F.2d 12 (2d Cir. 1971). The number of guards on patrol at a
particular time and the selection of cellmates are internal
matters of security into which federal courts should intervene
only when exceptional circumstances are involved. Such
exceptional circumstances do arise when federal constitutional
rights are violated. In order to establish a violation of the
Eighth Amendment, plaintiffs must either show that the actions of
the defendant intentionally inflicted excessive or grossly severe
punishment upon them or that conditions so harsh as to shock the
general conscience were knowingly maintained. LaBatt v. Twomey,
513 F.2d 641, 648 (7th Cir. 1975). The allegations in this
subparagraph, construed liberally, do not establish conditions
which would constitute such cruel and unusual punishment.
Consequently, the allegations concerning overcrowding have been
resolved by the Stansbury decree or involve matters left to the
discretion of the State.
The critical determination that this court has made with
respect to the issues raised in the complaint is whether genuine
issues of fact remain for trial. Based on all of the pleadings of
both parties, and particularly the affidavits presented by
defendants, it clearly appears that no genuine issues of fact
remain. This court has thoroughly examined plaintiffs' claims and
construed the evidence in plaintiffs' favor. Following extensive
consideration of the allegations in this manner, there is no
doubt but that defendants are entitled to summary judgment on all
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that defendants' motion for summary
judgment is GRANTED as to all remaining claims, and judgment is
entered herein in favor of defendants.
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