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Harden v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 7, 2016

TONY HARDEN, K-04116 Petitioner,
JOHN BALDWIN, Respondent.



         Tony Harden, a state prisoner, has filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Harden challenges his continued confinement as a sexually dangerous person (“SDP”) at Big Muddy River Correctional Center, and seeks immediate release. On February 26, 2014, the state trial court ordered his conditional release. However, respondent (the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections) has failed to facilitate Harden's discharge from custody.

         In April 1998, in Sangamon County Case Number 97-CF-1104, Harden stipulated to being a SDP, in lieu of facing criminal prosecution (Doc. 1, pp. 1-2). The trial judge ordered him to be confined pursuant to the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act (“SDPA”), 725 Illinois Compiled Statutes 205/0.01 et seq. During his confinement, Harden was to receive treatment until such time as he was determined to no longer be dangerous.

         The petition is now before the Court for review pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases in United States District Courts. Rule 4 provides that upon preliminary consideration by the district court judge, “[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner.” After carefully reviewing the petition, the Court concludes that this action is subject to dismissal.

         The Petition

         The instant petition raises the following grounds for relief: (1) Harden has continued to be confined under the SDPA despite the state court's February 26, 2014, order of conditional release (Doc. 5-1, pp. 1-6); (2) The SDP Program is unconstitutional as applied to Harden, and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) because of its systemic failures; (3) Harden's indefinite confinement since the state court ordered his release violates his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; (4) Harden's ongoing confinement and treatment as if he were a convicted prisoner amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4). Harden names John Baldwin, the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), as the respondent, because Baldwin is his court-appointed guardian under the SDPA. Harden notes that he has filed a petition in state court for judicial review of his case, as well as a mandamus action (Doc. 1, p. 4; Doc. 5-1, pp. 11-17; Doc. 5-4, pp. 4-10). However, the petition does not include further information on the status of those matters.

         Subsequent to filing the habeas action, Harden filed three motions with this Court seeking to add exhibits to his pleading: a “Motion Submitting Evidence” containing 91 pages of exhibits (Doc. 5), a second motion to submit evidence, including a motion for immediate release (Doc. 8), and a third motion submitting evidence (Doc. 13), which included a 12-page report prepared for a civil rights case now pending before this Court under Case No. 14-cv-844-SMY-RJD, [1] in which Harden was one of the original plaintiffs. He also filed a motion for declaratory and injunctive relief (Doc. 12), and another motion for immediate release from confinement (Doc. 9).

         Motions Submitting Additional Evidence (Docs. 5, 8, & 13)

         In the motion at Doc. 5, Harden expands on his argument that the SDP Program is inadequate to effect his recovery and is out of compliance with the SDPA, because there are no transitional facilities or assistance to facilitate homeless and indigent SDP's to re-enter society once they have been conditionally released or discharged (Doc. 1, p. 3; Doc. 5, p. 2). As a result, he must remain confined indefinitely. This system violates his constitutional rights. His court order for conditional release came after two experts found him to no longer be dangerous (Doc. 5, p. 4). He claims that the IDOC has made no efforts to obtain transitional housing that would comply with Harden's conditions of release, and his family does not have the means or the responsibility to find such housing (although they are attempting to assist him) (Doc. 5, p. 9).

         Among the exhibits submitted along with the motion at Doc. 5 are a pro se “Motion Requesting Court to Modify Conditions of Release, ” filed in the Sangamon County Circuit Court, Case No. 97-CF-1104, on June 18, 2015 (Doc. 5-2, pp. 1-4). The motion requests a ruling on the constitutionality of Harden's continued confinement, a review of the conditions of his release, and seeks his release from custody. On July 9, 2015, Harden, this time by counsel, filed another Motion to Modify Conditions of Release (Doc. 5-2, pp. 5-7), requesting the court to order the IDOC to show what efforts had been made to find an approved residence for him. According to a letter from Harden's counsel, the court then ordered the IDOC to provide updates every 15 days regarding its efforts to find suitable housing for him (Doc. 5-2, p. 12). He includes several letters/reports submitted between January and April 2016, documenting that the IDOC was waiting to see if his brother would purchase a home where Harden could reside (Doc. 5-2, pp. 13-17; Doc. 5-3, pp. 1-8).

         Another exhibit consists of the aforementioned “Petition of Mandamus” which was submitted to the Jefferson County Circuit Court on or about June 23, 2016 (Doc. 5-4, pp. 4-10). In it, Harden seeks an order requiring IDOC Director Baldwin to provide him with transitional housing so that he could be released.

         The motion to submit evidence at Doc. 8 reiterates Harden's claim that the SDP program cannot effect his recovery, and presents three documents:[2] a letter from the John Howard Association offering the opinion that “the SDP program is effectively a life sentence with the possibility of parole, and its residents are effectively prisoners that were imprisoned absent a criminal trial.” Also included is a letter from Harden's counsel and a forwarded letter from the IDOC advising that as of September 13, 2016, there was still no change in the status of its efforts to find acceptable housing for Harden.

         The motion at Doc. 13 again asserts that Harden's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights are being violated by his continued confinement, where the SDP program does not comply with the SDP Act, and fails to provide for him to be discharged in compliance with the conditions of his release. He presents the Court with a report prepared by Dean Cauley, who was retained to evaluate the effectiveness of the SDP program at Big Muddy River, in connection with the civil rights action in this Court brought by Harden and several other SDP detainees. Howe, et al., v. Holt, et al., Case No. 14-cv-844-SMY (S.D. Ill. filed July 25, 2014) (Harden was allowed to voluntarily dismiss his claims in that case without prejudice on July 1, 2015, in anticipation of his release; see Doc. 73 in Howe). Mr. Cauley opines that the SDP treatment program at Big Muddy:

[C]annot fulfill a goal to “treat and release after the briefest time possible”. Instead, the inherent flaws in the program result in treatment that is slow, repetitive, and not catered to the mission of treating the men and returning them to the community as quickly as possible. Also, the program has not focused on creating a therapeutic milieu, but instead is restrictive, limited, and adversarial.

(Doc. 13-1, p. 3 (Doc. 124-1, p. 15 in Case No. 14-cv-844-SMY-PMF)).

         Motions for Release from Custody ...

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