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Lewis v. Phillips

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

March 28, 2014

MICHAEL LEWIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
LARRY PHILLIPS, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, District Judge.

Plaintiffs, proceeding pro se, are detained in the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center pursuant to the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Act. They pursue First Amendment claims arising from restrictions on their access to movies, video games, video gaming systems and other electronic devices. A retaliation claim is also pursued based on Plaintiffs' allegations that these restrictions were put in place in order to retaliate against them for lawsuits.

Before the Court are the parties' motions for summary judgment. At the summary judgment stage, evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, with material factual disputes resolved in the nonmovant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when a reasonable juror could find for the nonmovant. Id.

In short, the Court concludes that the restrictions on movies and video games are constitutional. Defendants' evidence demonstrates that the restrictions are reasonably related to legitimate safety, therapeutic, and staffing concerns.

As for the restrictions on video gaming systems and other electronic devices, Plaintiffs' request for more time to conduct discovery on this claim will be granted. The Court had ordered Defendants to supplement their motion regarding this claim, and Plaintiffs should be given a chance to obtain evidence to oppose the supplemental information provided.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiffs are detained in the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center pursuant to the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Act, 725 ILCS 207/1, et seq. The Act defines a sexually violent person as a person found to be "convicted of a sexually violent offense, ... and who is dangerous because he or she suffers from a mental disorder that makes it substantially probable that the person will engage in acts of sexual violence." 725 ILCS 207/5(f). Once adjudicated as a sexually violent person, that person's detention is indefinite until a conditional release or discharge is granted. 725 ILCS 207/60; 725 ILCS 207/65.

Plaintiffs' access to movies and video games is restricted, restrictions which have evolved since the inception of this lawsuit. The first policy was a de facto ban on all movies rated R and NC-17 movies, M-rated video games and unrated movies and video games.[1] The detainees could watch movies rated G, PG, PG-13, and could play video games rated E, E10, or T. The policy was then revised to allow detainees to watch R-rated movies and MA-rated video games, except for those on a prohibited list compiled by therapists. This policy was later further revised to ban unrated movies, rented movies with a rating higher than PG-13, and original movies from pay movie channels such as Showtime, HBO, Starz, and Cinemax.

Video games and movies are forms of expression protected by the First Amendment. See Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass'n , 131 S.Ct. 2729, 2733 (2011)("video games qualify for First Amendment protection"); Young v. American Mini Theatres, Inc. , 427 U.S. 50, 59 (1976)(recognizing that ordinance affecting adult movie theater affected First Amendment communication rights). Plaintiffs' receipt of that expression is also a First Amendment right. Bd. of Educ., Island Trees Union Free School Dist. No. 26 v. Pico , 457 U.S. 853, 867 ([T]he right to receive ideas is a necessary predicate to the recipient's meaningful exercise of his own" First Amendment rights)(emphasis in original). However, as with all First Amendment rights, Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights must be balanced against legitimate governmental concerns.

I. The applicable legal standard to the restrictions on movies and video games is the Turner test: Are the restrictions reasonably related to legitimate government interests?

Individuals detained under the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Act are treated like pretrial detainees for the purpose of analyzing constitutional claims. See Brown v. Budz , 398 F.3d 904 (7th Cir. 2005)(failure to protect claim by sexually violent person); Sain v. Wood , 512 F.3d 886, 893 (7th Cir. 2009)(conditions of confinement claim by sexually violent person). Like pretrial detainees, the conditions of confinement for sexually violent detainees cannot amount to punishment. Lane v. Williams , 689 F.3d 897 (7th Cir. 2012)("Commitment under the Act is civil and so may be for purposes such as incapacitation and treatment, but not punishment.").

Plaintiffs argue that they are different than pretrial detainees because Plaintiffs' detention is generally much longer than the detention of the average pretrial detainee. See Bell v. Wolfish , 441 U.S. 520 (1979)(noting that nearly all the detainees in that case were released within 60 days). True, the detention of a person under the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Act can be indefinite, and this Court has cases filed by sexually violent detainees who have been detained under the Act for more than a decade. See Smego v. Aramark, 10-CV-3334 (C.D. Ill., 5/13/13 order, p. 4.)

However, while the length of the detention may be a relevant factor in determining whether a restriction or condition is constitutional, a legal test different from that applicable to pretrial detainees does not need to be created.

For example, in Smego v. Aramark, et al., 10-CV-3334, this Court recently considered sexually violent detainees' lengthy detention within the framework of a pretrial detainee analysis. Plaintiffs in that case, all detained in the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center, essentially allege that the food is so bad that they cannot eat it. The pretrial detainee analysis was flexible enough in that case to address the fact that Plaintiffs' detention had continued long past the detention of most pretrial detainees. In other words, the Court rejects Plaintiffs' argument that the legal analysis for pretrial detainees does not apply to Plaintiffs' claims.

This Court has, in past cases dealing with First Amendment rights of detainees at the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center, applied Turner v. Safely , 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987). See, e.g., Schloss v. Ashby, 11-CV-3337 (C.D. Ill); Lingle v. Ashby, 13-3017 (C.D. Ill). Turner held that restrictions on a prisoner's First Amendment rights are constitutional if those restrictions are "reasonably related to legitimate penological interest[s]." 482 U.S. at 89. Turner addresses prisoners' rights to marry and to correspond with other inmates.

Turner identified the following factors relevant to determining whether a restriction is reasonably related to a legitimate government interest: 1) whether the restrictions are rationally connected to achieving the stated legitimate and neutral governmental interests; 2) whether the detainees have alternate ways to exercise their First Amendment rights; 3) whether and to what extent accommodating Plaintiffs would adversely impact staff and other detainees; and, 4) whether the restrictions are an "exaggerated response, " for example if "ready alternatives" for achieving the same interests exist. Turner , 482 U.S. at 78-79; Beard v. Banks , 548 U.S. 521, 529 (2006); Shaw v. Murphy , 532 U.S. 223 (2001)("Turner provides the test for evaluating prisoners' First Amendment challenges, ...."). Restrictions that are reasonably related to legitimate government concerns are necessarily not considered punishment under the Due Process Clause. See, e.g., Lingle v. Kibby, WL (7th Cir. 2013) (unpublished) ("[A] condition of ...


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