LONG v. BROWN et al
Entry Discussing Motion for Summary Judgment - Plaintiff Jonah Long brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the defendant has violated his First Amendment rights by restricting his right to communicate with his fianc, Ka mi Clemens. The defendant moved for summary judgment and Long has filed a cross motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the defendant's motion for summary judgment [dkt 65 ] is granted and Long's cross motion [dkt 69 ] is denied. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue. (See Entry.) Copy to plaintiff via US Mail. Signed by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on 11/8/2016. (RSF)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
TERRE HAUTE DIVISION
Entry Discussing Motion for Summary Judgment
Plaintiff Jonah Long brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the
defendant has violated his First Amendment rights by restricting his right to communicate with his
fiancé, Kami Clemens. 1 The defendant moved for summary judgment and Long has filed a cross
motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the defendant’s motion for summary
judgment [dkt 65] is granted and Long’s cross motion [dkt 69] is denied.
I. Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if
the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible
evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed and all reasonable inferences must
be drawn in the non-movant’s favor. Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th
Cir. 2007); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light
After the denial of his request for communication and after the filing of his complaint, Long was
moved to the Correctional Industrial Facility (“CIF”). As Long was no longer able to obtain the
injunction relief sought in his complaint from Superintendent Richard Brown, Superintendent
Wendy Knight of CIF was substituted as the Defendant in this matter.
most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”).
However, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its
pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a
genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490.
When faced with cross motions for summary judgment, the Court is to evaluate each
motion on its merits, resolving factual uncertainties and drawing all reasonable inferences against
the movant. Brownlee v. City of Chicago, 983 F.Supp. 776, 779 (N.D.Ill.1997).
II. Factual Background
At the time this lawsuit was filed, Long was incarcerated at the Wabash Valley Correctional
Facility (“Wabash Valley”). While incarcerated at Wabash Valley, Long requested to
communicate with an offender at another facility, Kami Clemens. Long stated in his requests for
communication that Kami Clemens is his fiancée. His requests were denied and he filed this
A. The Offender Correspondence Policy
The Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) has a policy in place that governs
offender correspondence. The purpose of the policy is to establish a mechanism for offenders to
maintain contact with persons in the community through correspondence, printed materials and
packages in a way that ensures the safety and security of the offenders involved and of the facilities.
The Offender Correspondence policy governs restricted correspondence, which includes
correspondence between offenders held in other correctional facilities. The burden of obtaining
permission for restricted correspondence is with the offender. The offender must establish that the
exchange of correspondence is in the best interests of both the confined persons and the facilities
involved. According to the defendant, allowing communication between offenders housed at
different facilities creates serious safety concerns for offenders and prison staff. IDOC takes the
safety and security of all offenders and staff very seriously. The safety and security of offenders
and staff is the reason why offenders must show that communication between offenders would be
in the best interests of the offenders and the facilities. Several of the factors that IDOC considers
when deciding whether communication between offenders is in the best interest of the facility is
the familial relationship between the offenders, whether the offenders have a child together, their
prior criminal history, and their prior personal history.
B. Long’s Requests for Communication
While he was incarcerated at Wabash Valley, Long requested to communicate with
Clemens and that request was denied. Long has not requested to communicate with Clemens while
incarcerated at CIF. However, a review of Long’s previous requests, and the documentation found
in his offender packet and other documents available to DOC, would lead officials at CIF to deny
his request for correspondence with Kami Clemens, if he were to submit such a request.
Long and Clemens are not immediate family, nor do they have a child together. In addition,
Long and Clemens are listed as co-defendants on confidential documents found in Long’s offender
packet and they both have a history of drug abuse and/or distribution. First, in July of 2012,
Clemens was driving away from a home that was under police surveillance for suspected drug
activity. Her car was stopped and searched by police who discovered and seized crystal
methamphetamine and other drug paraphernalia. She told police that Long was in the residence at
the time. Then, according to the opinion of the Indiana Court of Appeals on the appeal of Long’s
conviction, on September 7, 2012, Indiana State Police officers were conducting a narcotics
investigation at a hotel in Indianapolis. When they knocked on the door of a room registered to
Long, Clemens opened the door. In the room, the officer found digital scales and glass pipes. The
officer then advised other officers to look for Long. Later, officers observed Long approach the
hotel and signaled him to stop, at which time he stopped the car, exited the car, and ran away.
IDOC has determined that communication between Long and Clemens is not in the best
interests of the facility or the offenders. Offenders have previously used written communication
for purposes of gang-related and drug-related activity, and such communications need to be
carefully monitored. Because the status of “fiancé” is impossible to document and can be declared
or removed by offenders at any time, mandating communications between fiancés at different
facilities may effectively require IDOC to create an entirely new and costly framework for dealing
with illicit offender-to-offender communication sent under the guise of being love letters.
The defendant moves for summary judgment arguing that the denial of the request to
communicate did not violate Long’s First Amendment rights. Long responded and filed a cross
motion for summary judgment arguing that the denial is arbitrary and does violate his rights.
The Seventh Circuit has held that constitutionality of a rule prohibiting correspondence
between inmates at different institutions “cannot be doubted.” Farrell v. Peters, 951 F.2d 862 (7th
Cir. 1992) (citing Gometz v. Henman, 807 F.2d 113 (7th Cir. 1986)). The plaintiff in Farrell, an
Illinois state prisoner, sued prison officials who prohibited him from corresponding with his
“common law” wife, an inmate at another Illinois institution. The denial was based on a prison
rule which provided that “permission for committed persons to correspond between intra-state and
inter-state correctional facilities shall require the approval of the Chief Administrative Officers of
both facilities and shall be based on safety and security concerns.” In finding that the prison rule
and the denial of the request to communicate did not violate the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights,
the Seventh Circuit explained:
The potential dangers from correspondence among inmates in this age of prison
gangs-some nationwide in extent, United States v. Silverstein, 732 F.2d 1338 (7th
Cir.1984)-are obvious. The plaintiff argues as a backup that the rule was applied
arbitrarily to him and his “common law” wife, but he gives no particulars as to why
it might have been arbitrary and since the two were criminal confederates in
pimping and prostitution before they were imprisoned for those offenses the
arbitrariness of the defendants’ actions hardly leaps out at us.
Farrell v. Peters, 951 F.2d 862, 863 (7th Cir. 1992).
The IDOC policy at issue in this case is similar to the Illinois rule in Farrell. The IDOC
rule states that an offender must obtain prior approval from the IDOC to receive or send
correspondence to another person if the other person is held in a correctional facility. The policy
also states: “the offender must establish that the exchange of correspondence is in the best interests
of both the confined person and the facilities involved.” The defendant has explained that this is
rule is based on the need to allow offenders to maintain contact with people in the community
while ensuring the safety and security of inmates and personnel in the correctional facilities. Like
the rule in Farrell, the constitutionality of the rule at issue here is clear.
Long asserts that his request for communication was denied simply because he and
Clemens are not married. 2 He argues that the requirement that offenders who seek to communicate
with each other be related is not logically related to penological interests because there is no logical
argument that communication between non-family members creates a different security concern
than that between family members. As the defendant explains, to help ensure the security of the
facilities, offenders who request to communicate with each other must show that the
communication would be in their best interest and the best interest of the facilities. In making this
determination, the IDOC considers several factors, including the familial relationship between the
In certain points of his argument Long seems to suggest that they are married, stating that
Clemens is his spouse, but he has presented no independent evidence that they are married and
repeatedly refers to her as his “fiancé.”
offenders, whether the offenders have a child together, their prior criminal history, and their prior
personal history. Thus, whether the offenders are family is only one of the factors considered when
reviewing a communication request.
Long also argues that the defendant did not provide adequate evidence to justify the
legitimate penological interest. But the defendant did present evidence supporting the policy – that
offenders have used written communication for purposes of gang-related and drug-related activity.
Moreover, the relevant case law also supports this proposition. See Turner, 482 U.S. 78, 91-92
(1987) (“undoubtedly, communication with other felons is a potential spur to criminal behavior:
this sort of contact frequently is prohibited even after an inmate has been released on parole.”);
Farrell, 951 F.2d at 863.
Long further argues that the rule has been applied arbitrarily to him. He bases this argument
on his assertion that other inmates have been permitted inter-facility correspondence and that he
received evolving arbitrary explanations for the denial of his request. But Long has failed to show
arbitrariness based on the other communications he alleges were allowed. First, because the
decision whether to allow offender communication depends on a number of factors, Long cannot
show that the decision to deny his communication request was arbitrary merely because others
were permitted to communicate. In addition, the offenders who were allowed to communicate,
according to Long, had immediate family relationships unlike Long and Clemens.
Long also argues that the denial of his communication request was arbitrary based on what
he characterizes as differing responses he received to his request at various levels. He provides
evidence that he was initially told that only immediate family members or people who share
children can be approved to correspond. Then, when he filed a grievance on the issue, he was told
“that being allowed to correspond with another confined person is a special privilege that [IDOC
decided] based on the best interest of both the confined persons and the facilities involved. Since
you are not related and do not have children together and it is not for the purpose of re-entry
planning, we do not feel it is in the best interest of the facilities to allow you to correspond.” The
defendant argues that these responses to Long’s communication requests and grievances do not
show changing standards, but each focus on institutional safety and show that a familial
relationship is an important, but not necessarily dispositive, factor. The evidence is that, in
considering Long’s communication requests, the IDOC considered his relationship with Clemens
and the best interests of the facilities involved. Long has failed to show any arbitrary action on the
part of the IDOC.
Long also challenges the defendant’s characterization of his and Clemens’s crimes. The
defendant asserts that the denial of the communication request is reasonable because Long and
Clemens were involved in similar criminal activity. Long asserts the conclusion is not reasonable
because he and Clemens were not charged or tried together. The defendant’s argument that Long
and Clemens were involved in criminal activity together is based two events in which Long and
Clemens were discovered by police involved in drug activity. First, in July of 2012, Clemens was
found in possession of crystal methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia after leaving a home at
which Long was staying. A short time later, Clemens was found in a hotel room registered to Long.
In the room were scales used for weighing drugs and glass pipes. Based on these two incidents, it
is reasonable for the IDOC to conclude that Long and Clemens were involved in criminal activity
In short, the denial of Long’s request to communicate with Kami Clemens was based on
sound IDOC policy, supported by relevant legal precedent, and was not arbitrary. Accordingly
Long’s First Amendment rights were not violated.
For the foregoing reasons, the defendant’s motion for summary judgment [dkt 65] is
granted and Long’s cross motion [dkt 69] is denied. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Date: November 8, 2016
Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
Pendleton - CIF
Correctional Industrial Facility
5124 West Reformatory Road
Pendleton, IN 46064
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