United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MARVIN D. MONK, # 14303-033, Plaintiff,
MICHELLE DAWN, ERIC EDMISTER, S. BYRUM, C. WOMACK, MURPHY, L. BASLER, MAUREEN BAIRD, WARDEN B. TRUE, SARA M. REVELL, DEATON, and THOMPSON, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Phil Gilbert District Judge.
an inmate in the United States Penitentiary at Marion
(“Marion”), brings this action for alleged
violations of his constitutional rights by persons acting
under the color of federal authority. See Bivens v. Six
Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Plaintiff is
serving a 240-month sentence for Enticement of a Person Under
the Age of 18 to Engage in Criminal Sexual Activity, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b) and Production of Child
Pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a).
See Monk v. United States of America, Case No.
12-cr-120 (W.D. Ken., Doc. 103) (government's response to
motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255). The conduct
giving rise to the indictment included enticing a minor
(Plaintiff's stepdaughter) to engage in sexual activity
and producing visual depictions of sexually explicit conduct
with that minor. See Monk v. United States of
America, No. 12-cr-120 (W.D. Ken., Docs. 1 and 103). A
search warrant on Plaintiff's iPhone revealed sexually
explicit text messages between Plaintiff and the minor
victim, including sexually explicit photos. See Monk v.
United States of America, No. 12-cr-120 (W.D. Ken., Doc.
103). Additionally, the arresting agency recovered an 8mm
video cassette that contained footage of Plaintiff and the
minor victim engaging in sexual activity. Id.
his arraignment, Plaintiff was remanded to the custody of the
United States Marshal and ordered to have no direct or
indirect contact with the victim. Id. Despite this
clear directive, Plaintiff contacted the victim on multiple
occasions. Id. He did so by writing letters to the
victim,  prompting the United States to file a
motion to restrict Plaintiff's outgoing mail. See
Monk v. United States of America, No. 12-cr-120 (W.D.
Ken., Docs. 28, 29, 30, and 103).
brings this action seeking an order to require the Federal
Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) to allow him to use the
prison's electronic public messaging service
(“TRULINCS”) and for monetary damages for denying
him access to the same. Access to this method of
correspondence with persons outside the prison is generally
available to federal prisoners. However, on January 15, 2016,
when Plaintiff arrived at Marion, Defendant Dawn
(Marion's Case Manager Coordinator) prohibited Plaintiff
from using this system. (Doc. 1, pp. 4, 18). Use of the
system was denied based on Plaintiff's “offense
conduct and personal history.” (Doc. 1, pp. 4, 18).
Since then, Plaintiff has submitted several grievances
seeking access to TRULINCS. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-19). All of
Plaintiff's requests for permission to use TRULINCS have
been denied, as have his administrative appeals of those
denials. Id. Plaintiff asserts that the decision to
deny him this privilege was “arbitrary and capricious,
” when other inmates with similar conduct are allowed
to use electronic messaging. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-7). He protests
the decision as discriminatory and a violation of his right
to equal protection. Id. In addition, he claims that
the officials who denied his grievances and related appeals
violated his “First Amendment right to redress when
they failed to take the appropriate action in response to
[his] administrative remedy process, ” thereby denying
Plaintiff “a meaningful review.” (Doc. 1, p. 7).
Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
§ 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 the
Complaint, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to
state a cognizable claim for violation of his constitutional
rights. Therefore, this action is subject to summary
Program Statement Number 4500.11
to the Complaint, restricting Plaintiff's access to the
TRULINCS program was an arbitrary and abusive application of
BOP Program Statement Number 4500.11,  which governs the
Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS) -
Electronic Messaging. This policy states, in pertinent part,
“Use of the TRULINCS is a privilege; therefore, the
Warden or an authorized representative may limit or deny the
privilege of a particular inmate.” PS 4500.11, §
14.2, p. 127. Section 14.9 governs “System Access,
” and provides that “[a]n inmate's exclusion
from participation must be based on their individual history
of behavior that could jeopardize the legitimate penological
interests listed above [protecting the “safety,
security, or orderly operation of the correctional facility,
or the protection of the public or staff.”]. Inmates
must not be excluded from program participation based on
general categorizations of previous conduct.” PS
4500.11, § 14.9a, p. 131. Section 14.9a. (1)
specifically addresses sex offenders, providing that
“[i]nmates whose offense, conduct, or other personal
history indicates a propensity to offend through the use of
email or jeopardizes the safety, security, orderly operation
of the correctional facility, or the protection of the public
or staff, should be seriously considered for
restriction.” PS 4500.11, § 14.9a. (1). Inmates
convicted of sex offenses are not categorically excluded from
participation. As Defendant Deaton noted in resolving one of
Plaintiff's grievances, Plaintiff's restricted access
was based on his “offense conduct and personal
history.” (Doc. 1, p. 18). Further, “all cases
are reviewed individually and are not compared to other
inmates cases.” Id.
this policy and guidelines, it appears that the denial of
Plaintiff's request to participate in TRULINCS was not
arbitrary or capricious, but was based on the above policy
and on Plaintiff's own personal history of enticing his
minor stepdaughter to engage in sexually explicit conduct;
exchanging sexually explicit text messages with his minor
daughter, including photographs of his penis and her
genitals; producing child pornography depicting sexually
explicit acts with his minor stepdaughter; and violating a
no-contact order following his arraignment. The policy cited
by Plaintiff gives officials discretion to restrict Plaintiff
from using TRULINCS based on this offense conduct. More to
the point, not every denial of a “privilege”
(such as access to TRULINCS) amounts to a constitutional
suggests that he has been denied equal protection because
other inmates with “similar” offense conduct are
permitted access to TRULINCS, and he purports to bring an
equal protection claim as a “class of one.” (Doc.
1, pp. 6-7).
equal protection claim may be brought under a “class of
one” theory, alleging that the plaintiff has been
treated differently from others similarly situated, without a
rational basis for the difference in treatment. See
Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564
(2000). “Class-of-one discrimination is illustrated
when a public official, with no conceivable basis for his
action other than spite or some other improper motive ...
comes down hard on a hapless private citizen.”
Brunson v. Murray, 843 F.3d 698, 705 (7th Cir. 2016)
(internal quotations omitted) (quoting Swanson v. City of
Chetek, 719 F.3d 780, 784 (7th Cir. 2013), and Lauth
v. McCollum, 424 F.3d 631, 633 (7th Cir. 2005)). A
plaintiff may plead himself out of court if the complaint
provides a rational basis for the treatment at issue.
D.B. ex rel. Kurtis B. v. Kopp, 725 F.3d 681, 686
(7th Cir. 2013).
instant case, the Complaint and attached exhibits refute
Plaintiff's equal protection claim. Marion officials
articulated a rational basis, consistent with the BOP's
program statement and guidelines and based on Plaintiff's
individual history of offense behavior, for denying Plaintiff
access to TRULINCS. See Vill. of Willowbrook v.
Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000) (plaintiff alleging
class-of-one equal protection claim must plead that he was
“intentionally treated differently from others
similarly situated and that there is no rational basis for
the difference in treatment.”).
First Amendment ...