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Vega v. Tegels

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

July 17, 2018

HERMINIO VEGA, Plaintiff,
v.
LIZZIE TEGELS and MELINDA DERUS, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          BARBARA B. CRABB DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se plaintiff Herminio Vega, who is incarcerated at the Jackson Correctional Institution in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, is proceeding on a claim that prison officials have failed to allow him visitation with his wife and children until he completes a domestic violence program in which he cannot enroll for up to five years. He contends that the denial of visitation violates his rights under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

         In his complaint, plaintiff stated that he was bringing this action on behalf of himself and other similarly situated inmates. However, plaintiff appears to have abandoned his class action claims because he did not file a motion for class certification under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23 or discuss the treatment of any other inmates other than himself. Now before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment on all of plaintiff's individual claims. Dkt. #22. For the reasons stated below, I am granting defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissing this case.

         From defendants' proposed findings of fact, I find that the following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         UNDISPUTED FACTS

         A. The Parties

         Plaintiff Herminio Vega is incarcerated at the Jackson Correctional Institution in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, where defendant Lizzie Tegels has been employed as warden since 2012 and defendant Melinda Derus is the correctional unit supervisor and American with Disabilities Act coordinator. As warden, Tegels is responsible for the overall administration and operation of the institution under Wis.Stat. § 302.04, including implementing all Department of Corrections policies and directives and legislative and judicial mandates. Derus's duties include scheduling inmates for their domestic violence programming as recommended during the intake process.

         B. Visitation Policies and Procedures

         Department of Adult Institution Policy 309.06.01 sets forth the procedure for requesting visits and the guidelines for visiting inmates in corrections facilities. To be placed on the approved visitor's list, a visitor must fill out a visitor questionnaire (form #DOC 21AA) and submit it to the institution. If the proposed visitor is a minor, the guardian must sign the form, insuring the guardian's knowledge and permission for the visitation.

         As a first step in the approval process, the inmate's social worker reviews the visitor application. Depending on the results of the background check for the proposed visitor, the social worker may approve the request and add the visitor to the inmate's visitor list. Sometimes a social worker may seek further clarification on a visitation request. For example, when the proposed visitor was involved in the crime for which the inmate is incarcerated, fits the inmate's victim profile or is potentially vulnerable and subject to victimization because of the inmate's offense history, the social worker may ask the inmate's Division of Community Corrections' agent or psychologist supervisor for a recommendation. If either one recommends denying the visitation request, the social worker forwards the request to the unit manager of the inmate's housing unit (in this case defendant Derus) for a decision.

         Wis. Admin. Code § DOC 309.08(4) sets forth numerous grounds for denying a request for visitation, including:

(e) The warden has reasonable grounds to believe that the inmate's reintegration into the community or rehabilitation would be hindered;
(f) The warden has reasonable grounds to believe that the inmate's offense history indicates there may be a problem with the proposed visitation;
(g) The warden has reasonable grounds to believe that the proposed visitor may be subjected ...

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