accept the need for prison officials to regulate mail between
prisoners, citing legitimate concerns that prisoners could use
such correspondence to plan escapes or other criminal activities,
to subvert the daily operations of the prisons by coordinating
disruptive activities, or to perpetuate gang influence by
enlisting cohorts to continue threats against inmates whom prison
officials have transferred in order to protect against gang
violence. In light of the weight the courts must ascribe to the
informed judgment of those charged with the difficult task of
running the prisons, this Court agrees that the restrictions
embodied in the federal and Indiana regulations at issue in this
case are not so broad or arbitrary as to violate Esposito's
limited right to expression under the First Amendment.
Although the restrictions the regulations place on inmate
correspondence do not themselves violate the First Amendment,
prison officials are not necessarily free to invoke these
regulations to arbitrarily prohibit one inmate from writing
another. In Storseth v. Spellman, 654 F.2d 1349 (9th Cir. 1981),
a jailhouse lawyer attacked on First Amendment grounds a state
regulation prison officials invoked to prohibit all
correspondence between him and an inmate "client." While
upholding the right of prison officials to closely regulate
inmate mail, the Ninth Circuit held that application of the
regulation to totally bar all correspondence between the two
inmates violated Storsteth's First Amendment rights. Id. at
1355-56. But Esposito cannot complain that defendants applied
their regulations to him in an arbitrary or unconstitutional
manner. Unlike the jailhouse lawyer in Storseth, Esposito was
allowed to communicate by letter with his co-defendant once he
gained approval from the appropriate authorities.
Esposito also contends that defendants violated his rights to
due process by returning his mail without according him the
necessary procedural safeguards. He requests the Court to extend
the protections delineated in Martinez to prohibit prison
officials from returning censored or prohibited mail before
giving the inmate a right to contest the censorship decision.
As the Court noted earlier, Esposito's reliance on Martinez is
misplaced because Martinez considered only the rights of free
citizens. Although a few courts have assumed that interference
with mail between inmates is protected by the due process clause,
see Storseth, 654 F.2d at 1355, these cases have not
independently analyzed the question whether an inmate's limited
interest in corresponding with another inmate is a "liberty"
interest subject to scrutiny under the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments. This Court need not decide that question here.
Assuming that such an interest exists, the procedural safeguards
provided Esposito were sufficient to comply with the demands of
Prison regulations placed Esposito on notice of the need to
obtain prior approval before writing to an inmate in another
institution. In contravention of the regulations, Esposito began
corresponding with Kapachinski. When prison authorities
intercepted the unauthorized mail, they returned the letters to
the sender with notice of reasons for the nondelivery. They also
informed the intended recipient of the rejected correspondence
and the process required for obtaining permission to correspond
with another inmate. When Esposito and Kapachinski routed their
requests for permission to correspond with one another through
proper channels, the requests were approved. Balancing the
governmental interests of institutional security, order, and
rehabilitation against the inmate's interest in preserving First
Amendment liberties, the procedures accorded Esposito met the
minimum requirements necessary to ensure fairness.
Requiring a hearing before return of unauthorized interprison
mail would serve no useful purpose. This is not a situation
where, as in Martinez, prison officials are censoring letters at
random. Instead, the disputed regulations require prior approval
of all inmate-to-inmate communications. As the regulation itself
is valid, the only facts to be determined are whether the
letter is to or from another inmate and whether the inmates have
obtained prior permission for their correspondence. These factual
questions can readily be determined without the need for an
administratively burdensome hearing every time the regulation is
violated. Given the governmental interest in restricting
potentially disruptive communication between inmates, it is not
unreasonable to place the burden on the prisoner to get approval
for writing to a fellow inmate before he sends his letter.
Esposito also contends that defendants hindered his
correspondence with his co-defendant in violation of his right of
access to the courts and his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. In
order to state a claim for denial of access to the courts,
plaintiff must show that the challenged conduct resulted in
actual injury or prejudice to potential or pending litigation.
Hudson v. Robinson, 678 F.2d 462, 466 (3d Cir. 1982); Isaac v.
Jones, 529 F. Supp. 175, 179 (N.D.Ill. 1981); see Hoppins v.
Wallace, 751 F.2d 1161, 1162 (11th Cir. 1985); Grady v. Wilken,
735 F.2d 303, 306 (8th Cir. 1984); Jones v. Franzen,
697 F.2d 801, 803 (7th Cir. 1983); Bach v. Coughlin, 508 F.2d 303, 308
(7th Cir. 1974). Similarly, a showing of prejudice is required to
substantiate a deprivation of the right to counsel under the
Sixth Amendment. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104
S.Ct. 2052, 2064, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984); Siverson v. O'Leary,
764 F.2d 1208, 1215 (7th Cir. 1985). Esposito presents no facts to
show that the interference with his mail prejudiced his defense.
Nor is Esposito's claim one where such prejudice may be presumed.
Absent any allegations of prejudice, Esposito's claims that he
was deprived of counsel and access to the courts must fail.
For the reasons stated above, the Court denies Esposito's
motion for summary judgment and grants summary judgment in favor
of defendants. An order of judgment shall enter dismissing this
case in its entirety.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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