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Williams v. Thompson





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Livingston County; the Hon. William T. Caisley, Judge, presiding.


Do penal inmates have a protected right to continue training in a program that the proper State authorities determine to abolish?

We hold they do not.

We reverse.

Plaintiffs here are inmates of the Pontiac Correctional Center (Pontiac). They had all been assigned for various lengths of time to duty in the dental laboratory at Pontiac and are endeavoring to obtain certification as dental laboratory technicians.

They initially filed a pro se complaint seeking to enjoin defendants from closing the lab. Following appointment of counsel, a second complaint, in two counts, was filed. Count I of the second complaint, which alleged that defendants improperly contracted with a private laboratory to provide services that had been provided by the Pontiac lab, is not involved in this appeal. Count II alleged that the Pontiac lab had been shut down — without affording plaintiffs notice or an opportunity to be heard — despite the laboratory's consistent profitability and its rehabilitative value. The complaint further alleged that plaintiffs suffered irreparable harm in the form of denial of further vocational training.

Defendants' motion to dismiss was denied and a temporary restraining order was issued. The court subsequently denied defendants' motion to reconsider and issued a preliminary injunction requiring defendants to either allow plaintiffs to complete their dental laboratory technician training at Pontiac or to provide them with alternative means of acquiring such training. In issuing the injunction, the court found that the plaintiffs had a right to complete dental laboratory technician training once they had begun it.


At issue here is the propriety of the injunctive order.

To obtain an injunction, the plaintiff must show (1) he has a right which needs protection; (2) he will suffer irreparable harm without the protection; (3) he has no adequate remedy at law; and (4) he is likely to succeed on the merits. (Illinois Consolidated Telephone Co. v. Aircall Communications, Inc. (1981), 101 Ill. App.3d 767, 428 N.E.2d 747.) The issuance or denial of a preliminary injunction is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial judge and should not be disturbed on appeal unless it is against the manifest weight of the evidence. Booth v. Greber (1977), 48 Ill. App.3d 213, 363 N.E.2d 6.


• 1 The element which defendants contend is lacking here is any right of plaintiff which needs protecting. In general, lawful incarceration limits — but does not completely eliminate — the rights and privileges of prisoners. (Compare Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, Inc. (1977), 433 U.S. 119, 53 L.Ed.2d 629, 97 S.Ct. 2532, and Wolff v. McDonnell (1974), 418 U.S. 539, 41 L.Ed.2d 935, 94 S.Ct. 2963.) As Wolff indicates, "* * * there must be mutual accommodation between institutional needs and objectives and the provisions of the Constitution that are of general application." 418 U.S. 539, 556, 41 L.Ed.2d 935, 951, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 2975.

In striking this balance, the Supreme Court in Meachum v. Fano (1976), 427 U.S. 215, 49 L.Ed.2d 451, 96 S.Ct. 2532, held that transfer of prisoners from one institution to another does not require a notice or a hearing because it is not any substantial deprivation of rights which triggers due process protections, but only those which are based on State law entitlements. (See Board of Regents v. Roth (1972), 408 U.S. 564, 33 L.Ed.2d 548, 92 S.Ct. 2701.) Because State law did not condition transfer on any specific events, but allowed it in a wide variety of circumstances at the discretion of prison officials, no State law entitlement existed.

Meachum has been interpreted as holding that a State law entitlement exists when there is a limitation on prison official's discretion to withdraw a privilege or benefit. (Arsberry v. Sielaff (7th Cir. 1978), 586 F.2d 37.) The limitation may come from statute, rule, or regulation or by institutional policy or custom. (Arsberry.) The Arsberry court found no State law entitlement to participate in educational programs accrued from section 3-6-2 of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 1003-6-2(d)) because the statute is merely a general ...

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