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Gary Fearn, #B-11121 v. Gov. Patrick Quinn

December 14, 2011

GARY FEARN, #B-11121, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GOV. PATRICK QUINN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gilbert, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Gary Fearn, an inmate in Robinson Correctional Center, brings this action alleging deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is serving an eight year sentence for unlawful vehicular invasion, and one year for property damage. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

Upon careful review of the complaint and supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A and shall dismiss this case.

The Complaint

Plaintiff brings this action against Defendants Governor Patrick Quinn, former Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") Michael Randall, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board (Jorge Montes, Chairman), and Robinson Warden Randy Grounds. At the time Plaintiff was incarcerated, the IDOC maintained a policy to award Meritorious Good Time ("MGT") and Supplemental Meritorious Good Time ("SMGT") to qualifying inmates. Under that policy, an inmate who is eligible to earn day-for-day good conduct credit could also receive an additional 90 to 180 days credit against his/her sentence, thus obtaining an earlier release from prison. However, the MGT and SMGT programs were suspended in January 2010, according to Plaintiff (Doc. 1-2, p. 20), after problems arose with the mishandling of the "MGT push" program (Doc. 1, p. 10). As a result, Plaintiff now faces the prospect that he must remain incarcerated for a significantly longer portion of his sentence. He also claims that "similarly situated prisoners" are being denied the opportunity for earlier release now that MGT and SMGT requests are not being considered by the Defendants.

Plaintiff argues that the suspension of the MGT/SMGT program implicates liberty interests, violates his rights to equal protection, and violates the ex post facto clause. He seeks an injunction ordering Defendants to issue MGT and SMGT credit to Plaintiff and other qualified inmates who were incarcerated prior to December 2009, as well as declaratory relief, compensatory and punitive damages.

Discussion

Plaintiff's sentence is one that entitles him to day-for-day good-time credit pursuant to 730 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/3-6-3, which provides, in relevant part, that "a prisoner who is serving a term of imprisonment shall receive one day of good conduct credit for each day of his or her sentence of imprisonment . . . . Each day of good conduct credit shall reduce by one day the prisoner's period of imprisonment[.]" 730 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/3-6-3(a)(2.1). The MGT credit which Plaintiff complains is being unfairly denied to him arises under another section of this statute: "The rules and regulations shall also provide that the Director [of the IDOC] may award up to 180 days additional good conduct credit for meritorious service in specific instances as the Director deems proper[.]" 730 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/3-6-3(a)(3); see also 20 ILL. ADMIN. CODE 107.210 (implementing statute and giving examples of criteria that may be considered by IDOC director in determining whether to award MGT credit).

It is well settled that, "if the government creates a right to good-time credits -- that is, a firm expectation that if the prisoner complies with specified conditions he will automatically earn the credits and be released earlier -- a deprivation of that right is a deprivation of liberty." Jackson v. Carlson, 707 F.2d 943, 946 (7th Cir. 1983) (citing Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 470-72 (1983)). In view of the mandatory language of Section 3-6-3(a)(2.1) regarding day-for-day good-time credit, IDOC prisoners generally are recognized by courts as having a due process liberty interest in day-for-day good-time credit that is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. See, e.g., Carter v. Rednour, No. 07-cv-0550-JPG-PMF, 2010 ...


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