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Caldwell v. Ewing

March 24, 2006

LINDA CALDWELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHERYL EWING, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

This cause is before the court for consideration of the defendants' motion for summary judgment. [d/e 52].

I. BACKGROUND

The pro se plaintiff originally filed her complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.§ 1983 against fourteen defendants at the Dwight Correctional Center. On March 17, 2005, the court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint in part and denied the motion in part. See March 17, 2005 Court Order. The court dismissed all defendants except Mail Room Supervisor Cheryl Ewing, Warden Lynn Cahill-Masching, Illinois Department of Corrections Director Donald Snyder, Administrative Review Board Member Melody Ford, Officers Ray Lovell, Patricia Kuhse and Don Johnson. The court found the plaintiff had the following surviving claims:

1) Defendants Ewing, Lovell, Cahill-Masching, Snyder and Ford violated the plaintiff's First Amendment rights by denying her only avenue of religious study.

2) Defendants Ewing, Lovell, Cahill-Masching, Snyder and Ford violated the plaintiff's First Amendment, Equal Protection and Due Process rights when the plaintiff was denied various African American magazines without any explanation.

3) Defendants Ewing, Lovell, Cahill-Masching, Snyder and Ford retaliated against the plaintiff for her grievances and legal activities by denying "legal" status to her ACLU and NAACP letters.

4) Defendants Kuhse, Johnson, Ewing, Lovell, Cahill-Masching, Snyder and Ford violated the plaintiff's First Amendment rights by either opening privileged or legal mail outside her presence or causing lengthy delays in receiving mail.

5) Defendants Ewing, Lovell, Cahill-Masching, Snyder and Ford violated the plaintiff's First Amendment right to meaningful access to the courts when they delayed legal mail and the plaintiff missed court deadlines.

II. FACTS

The plaintiff did not directly respond to the defendants statement of facts. The following facts are taken from the motion for summary judgment, the response and the attachments provided.

Defendant Donald Snyder is the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections. He did not review or sign any grievances or Administrative Review Board Decisions involving the plaintiff.

Defendant Melody Ford is an Administrative Review Board Member. She considered many of the plaintiff's appeals. She says in each case, she reviewed the grievances, counselor responses and grievance officer reports before upholding the denial of the plaintiff's grievance. However, Ford says she is not personally involved in the decisions concerning whether an inmate is allowed self-addressed stamped envelopes, what magazines are allowed, what mail is considered legal and how and when an inmate may receive free envelopes. The defendant says she does not implement department rules and most of these decisions are made at the institutions. Lastly, the defendant says she did not personally open, delay or have contact with the plaintiffs mail.

Defendant Cahill- Masching is the Dwight Correctional Center Warden. The defendant says she does not personally review or address every offender letter or grievance received by her office and instead appoints designees to handle these documents. Consequently, the defendant says she did not review the grievances involved in this case and was not involved in the final decisions.

The plaintiff was housed in the Mental Health Unit at Dwight Correctional Center from October 27, 1999 to October 26, 2000. The plaintiff was then housed in the segregation unit at the facility.

The plaintiff says she is a Christian. Inmates in segregation are not allowed to attend communal religious activities for security reasons. The plaintiff says she was receiving bible studies from the Rock of Ages Prison and other ministries. The plaintiff says she would study the lessons she received. She would then send the lessons back to the Rock of Ages Prison, they would correct her work and send her new material. The plaintiff also had a bible to use for the lessons. At some point, the plaintiff was no longer able to participate in the bible study sessions because she could not send the materials back in the self-addressed, pre-paid envelopes provided by the church.

The plaintiff was not able to use the envelopes because they were considered contraband. The defendants say inmates were using and trading the self-addressed, pre-paid envelopes like money. The envelopes were confiscated from any inmate who was found with them. It is not clear from either party when the plaintiff was prevented from participating in the bible study sessions or how long she was prevented from participating. In fact, the plaintiff in her deposition says she "worked on Bible lesson every single day and I still do." (Plain. Depo, p.

10). The defendants also state there was a Chaplain that visited the inmates on a regular basis and was available to help with religious studies.

The plaintiff says she had a personal subscription to Vibe Magazine, but not to the other magazines she says she was denied. Dwight Correctional Center did have a general subscription to Source, Right On and Sister to Sister Magazines for a period of time. The plaintiff says she was able to have a couple of Vibe magazines, but did have one confiscated. The plaintiff says she was told the Publication Review Committee denied the magazine due to security concerns. The plaintiff says she does not know if Caucasian magazines were also confiscated. The plaintiff also says she did not contact the committee to find out why she was denied the magazine.

The Central Publications Review Committee maintains a list of various magazines that are approved, disapproved or approved with the removal of certain pages. Once a magazine is on the list, the individual correctional centers do not have the discretion to perform any further review. In 2001, several months of Vibe magazine were allowed if certain pages were removed. In addition, five months of the magazine were disapproved in their entirety. None of the defendants were on the Central Publications Review Committee and none of the defendants personally banned the plaintiff from receiving Vibe magazine.

Only Defendant Kuhse had any involvement with the plaintiff's mail and her responsibility was simply to deliver the mail to the plaintiff's cell. The Department of Corrections has specifically identified mail that will be considered "privileged" or "legal" mail. Legal mail is only opened if the legitimacy of the mailing could be determined from the envelope. Otherwise, legal mail is opened only in front of the inmate. The defendants do not consider mail from the NAACP or ACLU as legal mail since these groups are considered referral agencies by the department. The defendants also state that if mail was addressed to a specific attorney at either organization, it would be considered legal mail.

The defendants also say that mail marked "return to sender" is opened and inspected for contraband or unauthorized communication. The defendants say it is not uncommon for inmates to try and communicate by placing another inmate's return address on an undeliverable piece of mail in hopes that it will make its way to the inmate listed on the return address.

None of the defendants denied the plaintiff free envelopes. The envelopes were available in the law library or from the commissary. The plaintiff says she did have a federal case dismissed apparently due to missing a deadline. However, the plaintiff wrote to the court and explained what happened and her case was reinstated. ...


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