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June 2, 1994


Appeal from Circuit Court of Livingston County. No. 92MR67. Honorable Charles E. Glennon, Judge Presiding.

As Corrected June 3, 1994. As Corrected June 29, 1994.

Honorable James A. Knecht, J., Honorable John T. McCULLOUGH, P.j., Honorable Carl A. Lund, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Knecht

JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the opinion of the court:

Richard West appeals from the circuit court of Livingston County's dismissal of his amended complaint for mandamus. He contends dismissal of his petition erroneous. We agree and reverse.

West, a prisoner incarcerated in the Pontiac Correctional Center, has several grievances. He claims those grievances have not been addressed due to the failure of the defendants to comply with the grievance procedure of the Department of Corrections (Department). He seeks to compel defendants to perform their duties with respect to his grievances.

The Department is responsible for investigating the grievances of prisoners. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 1003-2-2(h).) The Department has the authority and obligation to establish procedures to review the grievances of prisoners. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 1003-8-8(a).) The prisoners must be informed of the grievance procedure established by the Department. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 1003-8-8(d).

The Department's procedure for the resolution of grievances is set forth in title 20, sections 504.800 through 504.870, of the Illinois Administrative Code (Administrative Code) (20 Ill. Adm. Code §§ 504.800 through 504.870 (1991)). A disgruntled prisoner must first attempt to informally resolve incidents, problems, or complaints through his counselor. If the prisoner is unable to resolve his complaint through this informal means, he may file a written grievance. (20 Ill. Adm. Code § 504.810(a) (1991).) The written grievance is to be addressed to the grievance officer. (20 Ill. Adm. Code § 504.810(b) (1991).) The grievance officer must consider the grievance and report his findings and recommendations, in writing, to the chief administrative officer (CAO) within 15 working days, if possible, after the grievance is received by the grievance officer. 20 Ill. Adm. Code § 504.830(c) (1991).

The CAO shall advise the prisoner of the decision, in writing, within 10 working days, if possible, after receiving the grievance officer's report. (20 Ill. Adm. Code § 504.830(c) (1991).) If, after receiving the response of the CAO, the prisoner still feels the grievance has not been resolved to his satisfaction, he may appeal, in writing, to the Director of the Department, within 30 days of receipt of the CAO's response. (20 Ill. Adm. Code § 504.850(a) (1991).) The Director must review the grievance and the responses of the grievance officer and the CAO and determine whether the grievance requires a hearing before the administrative review board. If it is determined the grievance is without merit or can be resolved without a hearing, the prisoner must be informed of this Disposition. 20 Ill. Adm. Code § 504.850(b) (1991).

West alleged that while confined in the correctional facility correctional officials failed to provide him with certain supplies which he had a right to receive. Specifically, West alleges he was not provided with paper, envelopes, toothpaste, or cleanser. West began reporting these grievances to his counselor in April 1992. The counselor instructed West to make another request for supplies with respect to some of the grievances. With respect to other grievances, the counselor asked the correctional officer in charge of distributing the supplies why West had not received supplies. He was told they were distributed upon request, West had made no request for supplies and had therefore not received any, but they would be given to him if he made such a request.

West contends he was dissatisfied with this resolution of his grievances, and in May 1992 began to send written grievances to the grievance officers. No report of grievance officer's findings and recommendations was submitted to the CAO and the CAO, consequently, did not issue a written decision with respect to the grievances.

When, on September 8, 1992, West had still received no response from the grievance officers or the CAO, with respect to written grievances filed on May 15, 1992, May 27, 1992, July 7, 1992, and August 28, 1992, West filed written grievances with the administrative review board. However, the administrative review board refused to hear West's grievances until the grievance officers investigated them and issued findings and recommendations and the CAO reached a decision regarding them.

West filed a complaint for mandamus against Richard P. Gramley, the CAO, as well as Robbin Christian and Verna Hutchinson, the grievance officers. West alleged he was unable to exercise his right to have his grievances addressed due to the failure of Christian and Hutchinson to investigate his grievances and issue their findings and recommendations and Gramley to issue his decision regarding the grievances. West requested the court to compel Christian, Hutchinson and Gramley to perform these duties.

Although not required to do so, the trial court, in the exercise of its discretion, appointed counsel for West, to ensure he received meaningful access to the court. ( Tedder v. Fairman (1982), 92 Ill. 2d 216, 226, 441 N.E.2d 311, 315, 65 Ill. Dec. 398.) West continued to file pro ...

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