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Joshua F. Thomas, #K-95996 v. Mrs. Walters and Warden Ryker

February 14, 2012

JOSHUA F. THOMAS, #K-95996, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MRS. WALTERS AND WARDEN RYKER, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Joshua F. Thomas, an inmate in Stateville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on events that occurred while he was housed at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"). Plaintiff is nearing the end of his nine year sentence for predatory criminal sexual assault. 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). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

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

The Complaint

Plaintiff complains that, beginning in July 2010 when he was assigned to the C-Wing at Lawrence and until he filed suit in March 2011, he made several requests for a porter job in his housing unit without success (Doc. 1, p. 4). He claims that he was denied the position because he is white. Of the nine inmates working as porters on Plaintiff's housing unit, seven are black and two are white. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Walters (the placement officer) is incompetent and is responsible for the alleged racial imbalance in the porter job assignments. Plaintiff filed a grievance on January 18, 2011 (Doc. 1-1). The counselor's response stated that "job assignments are based on criminal history [and] past discipline, . . ." and instructed Plaintiff to send the counselor a request slip for a review (Doc. 1-1, p. 1). Plaintiff does not state whether he submitted another request slip pursuant to this suggestion.

Plaintiff does not request money damages, but instead asks for the prison to "stop discriminating on race, criminal history, discipline and or anything else" (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff no longer resides at Lawrence, having been transferred to Stateville Correctional Center on April 27, 2011 (Doc. 6). Discussion

Initially, it must be noted that prisoners do not have a constitutional right to employment or rehabilitative programs while in prison. Garza v. Miller, 688 F.2d 480, 485-86 (7th Cir. 1982), cert. denied 459 U.S. 1150 (1983). Nevertheless, purposeful discrimination in the awarding of prison jobs could amount to a constitutional violation. Racial discrimination by state actors violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment unless it is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. See DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 618 (7th Cir. 2000).

In order to state an equal protection claim, a plaintiff must establish that a state actor has purposely treated him differently than persons of a different race. Id. A "prison administrative decision may give rise to an equal protection claim only if the plaintiff can establish that 'state officials had purposefully and intentionally discriminated against him.'" Meriwether v. Faulkner, 821 F.2d 408, 415 n.7 ...


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