United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
SHAWN D. JONES, Plaintiff,
JON LITSCHER and SUSAN FISHER, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM M. CONLEY District Judge
se plaintiff Shawn Jones filed this lawsuit pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that defendants violated his
rights under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments by
failing to provide him with rehabilitative programs during
his incarceration. While he initially filed this action in
state court, defendants removed it to this court, and his
complaint is ready for screening as required by 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A. While the court accepts all allegations in
Jones's complaint as true and construes them generously
in his favor in light of his pro se status, see
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972), this
complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.
relevant times, plaintiff Shawn Jones was incarcerated at
Prairie Du Chien Correctional Institution
(“PDCI”). Defendants are Jon Litscher, the former
Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections
(“DOC”), and Susan Fischer, a social worker at
PDCI. Jones seeks to proceed against them in their individual
and official capacities.
March 17, 2017, Jones was interviewed for a rehabilitative
program related to domestic violence with Fischer. During the
interview, Jones told Fischer that there is no constitutional
mandate to require him to participate in such a program. He
also told her that he has no interest in taking any programs.
Fisher informed Jones that if he refused to participate, he
would be placed on “8-4, ” meaning that he would
not be permitted to use the day room, courtyard, library or
recreation during programming time. She also told him that
his refusal may affect his custody classification and
placement. Jones responded that he had a right to refuse
programming without consequence. Additionally, Jones alleges
that his requests to be transferred closer to his daughter
have been denied.
filed a grievance about his refusal to participate in the
domestic violence program, and he attached the records of the
unsuccessful grievance to his complaint. (See dkt.
#4-2, at 9-12.) The grievance was dismissed by Institution
Complaint Examiner M. Mathson because the domestic violence
program is a “high priority” for him in light of
his conviction for assaulting a woman and his subsequent
denial of the abuse, and Jones was informed of the
consequences of not participating in the program.
claims that the program requirement is a form of punishment
because the Department of Adult Institutions
(“DAI”) policy states that programs are
voluntary. While he seeks leave to proceed against the
defendants on First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims,
his allegations do not support a constitutional claim.
he does not state a claim for an Eighth Amendment violation
because none of his allegations suggest that the
“8-4” status caused him to endure conditions that
fell below the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities or subjected him to a substantial risk of serious
harm. Gillis v. Litscher, 468 F.3d 488, 491 (7th
Cir. 2006). Nor does he state a First Amendment claim related
to his refusal to participate. This is because, under the
rule of Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987),
“when a prison regulation impinges on inmates'
constitutional rights, the regulation is valid if it is
reasonably related to legitimate penological
interests.” As the records of Jones's grievance
about his refusal to participate in the program confirm --
and Jones' allegations do not call into question this
explanation -- the domestic violence program was recommended
to him for rehabilitative purposes, thus satisfying
his Fourteenth Amendment claim, Jones does not articulate the
right he believes has been violated. Perhaps he believes he
has a Fourteenth Amendment due process right to avoid
participating in the program. Yet to prove this claim Jones
must show that: (1) he has a liberty or property interest
with which the state interfered; and (2) the procedures he
was afforded upon that interference were constitutionally
deficient. Ky. Dep't of Corr. v. Thompson, 490
U.S. 454, 460 (1989); Marion v. Columbia Corr.
Inst., 559 F.3d 693, 697 (7th Cir. 2009); Scruggs v.
Jordan, 485 F.3d 934, 939 (7th Cir. 2007). Jones's
description of the “8-4” status does not permit
an inference that he suffered a loss of liberty when he
refused to participate in the domestic violence program
because he has not alleged that he dealt with a
“greater degree of confinement” as a result of
refusing to participate. Knowlin v. Heise, 420
Fed.Appx. 593, 597 (7th Cir. 2011) (prisoner did not lose a
liberty interest in refusing substance abuse treatment, even
though he suffered a “diminished chance of
discretionary parole, work release, better custody
classification, and transfer” to a more desired
institution). Even if the court inferred that he did suffer a
loss of liberty, Jones alleged that Fisher talked him through
the consequences of refusing to participate in the program,
and he pursued a grievance about the ramifications as well,
so he has not pled facts sufficient to support an inference
that the procedures he was afforded were deficient.
second possibility is that Jones believes that he has a
constitutional claim for being treated differently from other
inmates. However, in circumstances where “disparate
treatment is not based on a suspect class and does not affect
a fundamental right, prison administrators may treat inmates
differently as long as the unequal treatment is rationally
related to a legitimate penological interest.”
Flynn v. Thatcher, 819 F.3d 990, 991 (7th Cir.
2016). Prison classifications are presumed to be rational and
will be upheld if any justification for them can be
conceived. Id. (citing Ind. Petroleum Marketers
& Convenience Store Ass'n v. Cook, 808 F.3d 318,
322 (7th Cir. 2015); Johnson v. Daley, 339 F.3d 582,
586 (7th Cir. 2003)).
the decision to assign Jones “8-4” status for
refusing to participate in the domestic violence program is
buttressed by Jones's attachments to his complaint. Those
records confirm that PDCI staff felt that Jones would benefit
from the domestic violence program because he was
incarcerated for assaulting a woman and continued to deny his
fault. As such, Jones has no equal protection claim related
to the consequences of his refusal to participate in the
domestic violence program.
while Jones complains about his rejected request to be
transferred to a facility that is closer to his daughter,
Jones does not tie his refusal to participate in programs to
his denied requests for a transfer. Regardless, as a prisoner
he does not have a constitutional right to be located at a
prison of his choosing. See Miller v. Turner, 26
Fed.Appx. 560, 562-63 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing Meachum v.
Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225 (1976), for the proposition that
an inmate does not have a constitutionally protected liberty
interest in remaining at, or being transferred from, a
particular institution). Accordingly, ...