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Postlewaite v. Tredway

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 26, 2014

JARVIS L. POSTLEWAITE, # R-25461, Plaintiff,


PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, to challenge the conditions of his confinement. The case was mistakenly filed in the Northern District of Illinois on April 9, 2014, and was then transferred to this Court.

Filing Fee Status

When Plaintiff submitted his complaint, he did not pay the $400.00 filing fee, nor did he include a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"). The Clerk of Court notified Plaintiff that he must take one of these actions within 30 days of the date his case was filed (Doc.

6). The Clerk's letter had to be re-sent after it was returned for having the incorrect prisoner number. Plaintiff ultimately sent in his prisoner trust fund account statement (Doc. 9), but to date, he has not filed a motion for leave to proceed IFP.

Plaintiff incurred the obligation to pay the filing fee for this action at the time the case was filed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1); Lucien v. Jockisch, 133 F.3d 464, 467 (7th Cir. 1998). Unless he is granted leave to proceed IFP, he must pay the full fee of $400.00. If he submits a motion for leave to proceed IFP and it is granted, he would be responsible for a filing fee of only $350.00 (a plaintiff with IFP status is exempt from paying the $50.00 administrative fee). Plaintiff will be given one last chance to submit a motion for leave to proceed IFP. He must file it no later than 21 days from the date of this order. If his motion is not timely filed, he shall be assessed the higher amount.

The Complaint

Plaintiff states that in November 2013, he was transferred from a maximum security prison to Lawrence, which is classified as a medium security institution (Doc. 1, p. 3). He was housed in the South side of the prison, which is one of three housing areas. Both the North and South sides are for general population inmates, however, the North side has access to a dayroom while the South side does not. Inmates in all areas of the prison are given recreation time in the prison yard and the gym. Plaintiff claims that the denial of dayroom access for South side residents violates his rights to equal protection and due process, and constitutes an "atypical and significant hardship in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life" (Doc. 1, p. 4). He also claims an Eighth Amendment violation for cruel and unusual punishment (Doc. 1, p. 5). The lack of dayroom access affects "phone calls, showers, etc." (Doc. 1, p. 6).

Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to ensure equal access to the dayroom for all Lawrence inmates.

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant. After fully considering the allegations in Plaintiff's complaint, the Court concludes that this action is subject to summary dismissal.

The essence of Plaintiff's claim is that he has been treated differently from inmates who are housed in another wing of the prison, where they enjoy access to a dayroom that is unavailable to him. There is no indication that Plaintiff's placement in this less-desirable location was anything but random, and it appears that the physical limitations of the prison facility are such that no dayroom exists in Plaintiff's housing area. Despite the lack of a dayroom, Plaintiff is afforded access to recreation time outside of his cell, both in the prison yard and the gym, on the same basis as inmates in other wings.

The Court is unaware of any authority that guarantees all prisoners equal access to facilities such as a prison dayroom. To the contrary, prison officials have discretion to house inmates in any institution of their choice, or in any section of a particular prison, without violating the Constitution. "States may move their charges to any prison in the system." DeTomaso v. McGinnis, 970 F.2d 211, 212 (7th Cir. 1992) (citing Montanye v. Haymes, 427 U.S. 236 (1976)). See also Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 224 (1976) (the Constitution does not guarantee placement in a particular prison). Not every prison (or individual housing area) will have the same features or amenities that might be available elsewhere.

The lack of dayroom access, even if it leads to some restrictions on phone or shower privileges, does not rise to the level of a constitutional deprivation, nor does it constitute an atypical or significant hardship. The Constitution does not recognize an inmate's liberty interest in telephone privileges, see Sandin v. Connor, 515 U.S. 472 (1995), and regulations limiting telephone use by inmates have been sustained routinely as reasonable. See, e.g., Arsberry v. Illinois, 244 F.3d 558, 564 (7th Cir. 2001). Plaintiff does not allege that he has no ability to maintain contact with family or attorneys because of the lack of a dayroom. He does not explain how his shower privileges may have been affected, but the Seventh Circuit has found ...

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