United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff and prisoner Lawrence Charles Threadgill, III is
proceeding on claims that defendants Jason Achterburg and
Reed Richardson have interfered with his mail in violation of
the First Amendment. Now before the court is defendants'
motion for summary judgment. Dkt. #22. Because no reasonable
jury could conclude that defendants violated plaintiff's
First Amendment rights, I am granting the motion and closing
defendants' proposed findings of fact and plaintiff's
responses, I find the following facts to be undisputed unless
Lawrence Charles Threadgill, III, was incarcerated at Stanley
Correctional Institution from September 15, 2015 to September
27, 2018. Defendant Jason Achterburg is the security director
at Stanley and defendant Reed Richardson is the warden.
at Stanley have many options for communicating with family
and friends outside the prison, including sending letters,
receiving visitors, making telephone calls and, starting in
2018, sending email. In the three years that plaintiff was
housed at Stanley he received visitors, made 793 phone calls,
sent and received email and sent out at least three letters
at Stanley are required to submit all outgoing mail unsealed,
so that it can be scanned for contraband before the mail room
sends it out. Third shift unit officers collect mail from
each unit's mailbox, check the mail for contraband,
complete return addresses and postage and sort the mail
according to destination. Mail intended for recipients
outside the prison is delivered to the United States Post
Office in Stanley, Wisconsin by the first shift mail room
officers. Defendants have no involvement with the processing
or distributing of incoming and outgoing mail. (Plaintiff
says that multiple staff sergeants told him that defendants
had ordered that plaintiff's mail be sent to the security
office instead of the post office. But plaintiff has no
admissible evidence to support this allegation. The alleged
statements from staff sergeants are inadmissible hearsay
because they are “out of court” statements made
by non-parties, and plaintiff is trying to offer them to
prove that what the sergeants said is true. Fed.R.Evid. 801.
Plaintiff cannot rely on hearsay statements at the summary
judgment stage. Gunville v. Walker, 583 F.3d 979,
985 (7th Cir. 2009) (“[A] court may consider only
admissible evidence in assessing a motion for summary
estimates that between October 2015 and September 2018,
approximately 25 of the letters he wrote were delayed or did
not make it to the intended recipient, including letters he
wrote to a girlfriend, his sister, his brother, a friend and
his lawyer. One letter to his girlfriend took three weeks to
get to her and had been opened before she received it.
(Plaintiff was placed on mail monitoring from July 20, 2018
to August 20, 2018 because of his behavior toward a
particular staff member, but that time period falls outside
the scope of this lawsuit and, in any event, defendants were
not involved in monitoring his mail.)
was granted leave to proceed on a claim that defendants
Achterberg and Richardson violated his First Amendment right
to send and receive mail by confiscating letters he wrote and
refusing to send out some of his letters and packages.
Prisoners have a First Amendment right to send and receive
mail, Rowe v. Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 782 (7th Cir.
1999, and prison practices that restrict prisoner
correspondence must be “reasonably related to
legitimate penological interests.” Thornburgh v.
Abbott, 490 U.S. 401, 408, 413 (1989) (quoting
Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987)).
Restrictions on outgoing mail in particular must promote
“one or more of the substantial governmental interests
of security, order, and rehabilitation” and must be
“no greater than is necessary or essential to the
protection of the particular governmental interest
involved.” Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S.
396, 413 (1974).
instance, plaintiff has submitted no evidence showing that
defendants restricted his mail or refused to send out his
outgoing mail because of a general prison policy or practice
or because of a restriction that applied to him specifically.
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to
plaintiff, at most, he has shown that some of his outgoing
mail may have been delayed or did not reach the intended
recipient. But plaintiff also concedes that he was able to
send hundreds of letters during the time he was incarcerated
at Stanley Correctional Institution. Therefore, his
allegations suggest nothing more than isolated mistakes or
short-term delays in delivering his mail. “ Allegations
of sporadic and short-term delays in receiving mail are
insufficient to state a cause of action grounded upon the
First Amendment.” Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226
F.3d 568, 573 (7th Cir. 2000). Even if plaintiff had
submitted evidence showing that prison staff failed to
deliver some of his letters intentionally, he has submitted
no evidence showing that defendants Achterburg and Richardson
were responsible for the delays. Defendants cannot be held
liable for constitutional violation unless they were
“personally involved” in the offensive conduct.
Kuhn v. Goodlow, 678 F.3d 552, 555-56 (7th Cir.
2012). The undisputed evidence establishes that neither
defendant was involved in processing mail or in directing
prison staff to confiscate or delay plaintiff's mail.
Accordingly, defendants are entitled to summary judgment.
ORDERED that the motion for summary judgment filed by
defendants Jason Achterburg and Reed Richardson, dkt. #22, is
GRANTED. The clerk of court is directed to ...