HOFFMAN et al v. JACOBI et al
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO PLAINTIFF JAMES BENNETT - 159 Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED and James Bennett's claims are DISMISSED. See Order for details. Signed by Judge Sarah Evans Barker on 3/17/2017. (LBT)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
NEW ALBANY DIVISION
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO
PLAINTIFF JAMES BENNETT
This cause is before the Court on Defendants’ “Motion for Summary Judgment as
to James Bennett’s Claims Only” [Docket No. 159], filed on April 26, 2016. For the
reasons detailed below, Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff James
Bennett is GRANTED.
In March of 2011, Plaintiff James Bennett was convicted of felony drug offenses
in the Clark Circuit Court in Clark County, Indiana. On December 21, 2011, he received
a twenty-year fixed term of imprisonment to be served within the Indiana Department of
Corrections, with eight years suspended to strict probation. Immediately following his
sentencing hearing, Bennett entered the Clark County Jail to begin serving his time.
Fourteen months later, on March 5, 2013, Judge Jerome Jacobi of Clark Circuit
Court No. 2 approved an “Agreed Sentence Modification” ordering that “Defendant’s
sentence shall be modified so that he may serve the remaining portion of his executed
sentence in the Clark County Work Release Center.” See Defs.’ Ex. D. Three days
thereafter, Bennett was transferred from the Clark County Jail to the Clark County Work
Release Center and began participating in the Clark County Work Release Program. In
connection with that program, he signed the “Conditions of the Clark County Work
Release Program” (“the Conditions Contract”) and an Acknowledgment Letter signifying
that he had received and was responsible for reading a copy the Work Release Participant
Handbook (“the Handbook”). Defs.’ Exs. E, G.
Read together, the Conditions Contract and the Handbook set out the rules,
regulations, policies, and procedures for participants of the Work Release Program.
Included therein were directives that all participants were required to adhere to a strict
schedule regarding their whereabouts and movements and a notice that participants
would be charged certain fees as part of the Work Release Program, which financial
obligations were to be paid by the participants in a timely fashion. Id. The documents
also identified the possible sanctions and punishments for violations of these rules. Id. 1
The parties devote significant portions of their briefs, in block-quote fashion, to selected provisions of
the Handbook, Conditions Contract, and the Clark County Work Release Operational Policy & Procedure
Manual, taking the length of their filings well beyond the standard page limits set out in Local Rule 7-1.
As we explain below, these precise language of these provisions is irrelevant to our ultimate
determination of Plaintiff’s constitutional claims. Thus, we shall not include major portions of these
documents in this order. As appropriate, we have cited to the relevant document, excerpts of which are
available in the record.
Five months after Bennett entered the Work Release Program, on August 8, 2013,
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michaelia Gilbert filed with the Clark Circuit Court a
Petition to Revoke his continued participation. The Petition alleged that on August 7,
2013, Bennett “[f]ailed to follow the rules of the Work Release Program as instructed by
staff.” Defs.’ Ex. C. Specifically, the Supervision Report attached to the Petition to
Revoke explained the basis for Bennett’s revocation:
One or more unaccounted for hours of release time[:] On August 7,
2013, Bennett was scheduled to leave the Clark County Work Release
facility at 5:30 a.m. to attend classes at Truck America Training
school. Mr. Bennett did not show up to the Truck America Training
Facility for classes and did not have permission to alter his schedule.
Mr. Bennett has been informed before that he is to inform Clark
County Work release of any changes to his schedule and all changes
and/or modifications to his schedule need prior approval.
Failure to pay fees[:] Mr. Bennett is currently $776.00 in arrears.
Defs.’ Ex. H at ¶¶ 3–4.
On the same day the Petition was filed, Clark Circuit Senior Judge Steven Fleece
issued a warrant for Bennett’s arrest, charging him with “Violation of Placement in Clark
County Community Corrections Work Release Program I.C. 35-38-2.6-5” and ordering
his detention without bond in the Clark County Jail until such time as he could be brought
“without unnecessary delay” before the court for a hearing concerning his alleged
violation of Work Release Program rules. Defs.’ Exs. I, J. The warrant was served
promptly by a Work Release Program Security Officer on Bennett, who was escorted to
the Clark County Jail, where he remained detained pending a hearing on the Petition to
Bennett remained incarcerated at the Clark County Jail for a total of seventy-four
days while he awaited his hearing on the Petition to Revoke. While detained he sent
numerous letters to Attorneys Stephen Beardsely and Niles Driskill, Clark County Sheriff
Danny Rodden, Clark County Corrections Officer Lindon Dodd, Judges Steven Fleece
and Jerome Jacobi, and Prosecuting Attorneys Jake Elder and Matthew Lemme, each
asserting that he was being held unlawfully in jail and should have been arraigned within
seventy-two hours after his arrest.
Not until October 21, 2013, did one of Bennett’s many letters makes its way to the
Clark Circuit Court, where it was docketed on the Court’s Chronological Case Summary
as: “Administrative Event: Court receives letter from Defendant in CCJ.” Pl.’s Ex. 7 at 5.
A hearing before Judge Jerome Jacobi of the Clark Circuit Court No. 2 was scheduled
and conducted that same day, at the conclusion of which hearing, Judge Jacobi remanded
Bennett to the custody of the Clark County Sheriff to be held without bond until his
Revocation Hearing, which Judge Jacobi scheduled for December 2, 2013. Defs.’ Ex. K.
Bennett remained incarcerated another six weeks until December 9, 2013, when Judge
Jacobi ordered him “released back to the Clark Co. Work Release Center.” Defs.’ Ex. L.
On February 18, 2014, Bennett commenced the present litigation, alleging that his
seventy-four-day incarceration in the Clark County Jail violated his rights to due process
as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, or, in the alternative, his Eighth
Amendment protections against excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment. See
Dkt. 171 at ¶¶ 183, 184. Plaintiff has named as Defendants the Executive Director of
Clark County Community Corrections Stephen Mason, the Deputy Director of the Work
Release Program Danielle Grissett, and the Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden, all in
their individual and official capacities. He also named the Clark County Board of
Commissioners. Id. at ¶¶ 185–89.
On April 26, 2016, Defendants moved for summary judgment on each of
Bennett’s claims. See Dkt. 159. The motion became fully briefed on June 29, 2016, and is
now ripe for decision.
Summary judgment is appropriate when the record shows that there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
Disputes concerning material facts are genuine where the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In deciding whether genuine issues of material
fact exist, the court construes all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party
and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See id. at 255.
However, neither the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties,
id. at 247, nor the existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts,
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), will defeat
a motion for summary judgment. Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Illinois, Inc., 209
F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000).
The moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of
the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.
The party seeking summary judgment on a claim on which the non-moving party bears
the burden of proof at trial may discharge its burden by showing an absence of evidence
to support the non-moving party's case. Id. at 325.
Summary judgment is not a substitute for a trial on the merits, nor is it a vehicle
for resolving factual disputes. Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th
Cir. 1994). Thus, after drawing all reasonable inferences from the facts in favor of the
non-movant, if genuine doubts remain and a reasonable fact finder could find for the
party opposing the motion, summary judgment is inappropriate. See Shields Enter., Inc. v.
First Chicago Corp., 975 F.2d 1290, 1294 (7th Cir. 1992); Wolf v. City of Fitchburg, 870
F.2d 1327, 1330 (7th Cir. 1989). But if it is clear that a plaintiff will be unable to satisfy
the legal requirements necessary to establish her case, summary judgment is not only
appropriate, but mandated. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Ziliak v. AstraZeneca LP, 324
F.3d 518, 520 (7th Cir. 2003). Further, a failure to prove one essential element
necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.
In responding to Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, Bennett has
abandoned his claims against the Clark County Board of Commissioners as well as his
Eighth Amendment claims against all Defendants. See Dkt. 184. Accordingly, remaining
before us for resolution are Bennett’s Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claims against
Defendants Stephen Mason, Danielle Grissett, and Danny Rodden, who have been sued
in both their individual and official capacities.
Defendants raise several arguments in an effort to defeat Bennett’s procedural due
process claims, including, inter alia: (1) that each Defendant lacked the requisite personal
involvement in Bennett’s prolonged incarceration in the Clark County Jail to give rise to
their individual liability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) that Defendants Mason and
Grissett also lacked any authority to affect Bennett’s incarceration in the Clark County
Jail following his placement there by court order, relieving them of liability for any harm
emanating from Bennett’s extended detention; (3) that the Clark County Jail’s policy of
sending daily and weekly lists of its inmates to the appropriate courts did not constitute
“deliberate indifference” to Bennett’s constitutional rights sufficient to hold the Sheriff’s
Department liable pursuant to Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436
U.S. 658, 690 (1978); and (4) that Bennett did not possess a constitutionally cognizable
liberty interest with respect to his participation in the Work Release Program, which
interest was deprived of him without due process. See Dkt. 160.
Defendants’ first three arguments relate to their potential liability under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, the statutory basis for Bennett’s claims. Section 1983 imposes liability on any
“person” who, while acting under color of state law, violates an individual’s federally
protected rights. In raising a claim under this statute, a plaintiff may name a defendant in
his individual or official capacity. Individual-capacity claims “seek to impose individual
liability upon a government officer for actions taken under color of state law,” Hafer v.
Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991), whereas official-capacity claims seek to impose liability on
the entity for whom the officer works, Brandom v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471 (1985). Given
this difference between the involvement of the parties ultimately found responsible for
Bennett’s harm, separate issue arise as to personal involvement, widespread customs and
policies, policymaking authorities, and causation in deciding individual-capacity and
Prior to determining which, if any, Defendant(s) might be liable for Bennett’s
constitutional deprivation, we must address whether his claims involved a constitutional
deprivation that actually occurred. Defendants contend that Bennett did not possess a
constitutionally cognizable liberty interest under the Fourteenth Amendment, arguing that
there was no protected liberty interest in remaining in the Work Release Program. In the
absence of a protected liberty interest, Bennett would not possess a corresponding right to
a hearing or any other due process protections, rendering moot any issues of liability for
such deprivations. See Paige v. Hudson, 341 F.3d 642 (7th Cir. 2003). We address these
Protected Liberty Interests
Two types of protected liberty interests arise under the Fourteenth Amendment:
(A) those inherent in the Due Process Clause, and (B) those created by state laws or
regulations. See Kentucky Dep’t. of Corrections v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 460 (1989);
Domka v. Portage Cnty., 523 F.3d 776, 779–80 (7th Cir. 2008). Plaintiff claims that he
possessed both and both were violated by his protracted detention. Defendants rejoin that
he possessed neither.
Liberty Interests Inherent in the Due Process Clause
The Supreme Court has recognized that in certain situations inherent liberty
interests arise out of the protections of the Due Process Clause. However, such situations
are uniquely limited with regard to prison inmates, given that “‘lawful incarceration
brings about the necessary withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and
rights’…[and]…‘[a] broad range of choices that might infringe constitutional rights in a
free society fall within the expected conditions of confinement of those who have
suffered a lawful conviction.’” Domka, 523 F.3d at 780–81 (quoting Sandin v. Conner,
515 U.S. 472, 485 (1995) and McKune v Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 37 (2002)). Accordingly, the
Due Process Clause confers liberty interests upon lawfully incarcerated inmates only in
those limited situations where the alleged infringement of those rights extends beyond the
normal scope of the inmate’s sentence. Sandin, 515 U.S. at 479 n. 4.
In this regard, the Supreme Court has previously ruled that a prisoner who is
institutionally confined does not possess an inherent liberty interest in being housed in a
particular facility within a state's prison system, nor does he possess a liberty interest that
would allow him to avoid temporary placement in solitary confinement. Sandin, 515 U.S.
at 487; Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225 (1976). Moreover, the Seventh Circuit has
held that “a transfer to another prison, even to one with a more restrictive environment, is
not a further deprivation of an inmate's liberty under the Due Process Clause itself
because the prisoner could have been initially placed in a more restrictive institution, so a
transfer does not fall outside the expected scope of the sentence.” Whitford v. Boglino, 63
F.3d 527, 532 (7th Cir. 1995).
However, once an inmate has been released from institutional confinement, the
Due Process Clause does confer upon him certain liberty interests allowing him at least to
remain free from detention and outside the prison’s walls. “[T]he dispositive
characteristic that marks the point at which the Due Process Clause itself implies a liberty
interest [is] the fact of release from incarceration.” Paige v. Hudson, 234 F. Supp. 2d 893,
901 (N.D. Ind. 2002), aff'd, 341 F.3d 642 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting Harper v. Young, 64
F.3d 563, 566 (10th Cir. 1995), aff'd, 520 U.S. 143, (1997)). According to Supreme Court
precedent, probationers, parolees, and pre-parolees whose status regarding detention is
equivalent to parolees, all have inherent liberty interests in retaining their post-release
status. See Young v. Harper, 520 U.S. 143, 147 (1997) (pre-parole); Gagnon v. Scarpelli,
411 U.S. 778, 782 (1973) (probation); Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 481 (1972)
(parole). Likewise, the Seventh Circuit has ruled that a probationer on home detention
has an inherent Due Process liberty interest in remaining at home as opposed to being
incarcerated. See Paige v. Hudson, 341 F.3d 642, 643 (7th Cir. 2003).
Less clear is the interest and status of an inmate participating in a work-release
program. While neither the Supreme Court nor the Seventh Circuit has directly addressed
this issue, the Seventh Circuit has indicated that the unique circumstances of workrelease programs place participants somewhere on the spectrum between prisoners
serving out their sentences in low security confinement and probationers and parolees
reestablishing their lives in relative freedom in the outside community. See Domka, 523
F.3d at 781 n.3.
The analysis undertaken by our Circuit is a fact-specific determination of whether
a work-release program offers sufficient freedom to its participants as would confer upon
them an inherent liberty interest in remaining in the program under the Due Process
Clause. See e.g., White v. Steuben Cty., Ind., 2011 WL 4496504, at *7 (N.D. Ind. Sept.
27, 2011). The question we must answer, then, is “whether being removed from [the
work-release] program into jail is a sufficiently large incremental reduction in freedom to
be classified as a deprivation of liberty….” Paige, 341 F.3d 642 (citing Sandin, 515 U.S.
at 483). In making this determination, the relevant considerations are: “where the inmate
is housed; the restrictions on his freedom, movement, and employment; and his overall
ability to live a life without the incidents of imprisonment.” White, 2011 WL 4496504, at
*7 (citing Domka, 523 F.3d at 781).
A review of the terms, restrictions, and overall nature of the Clark County Work
Release Program makes clear that Bennett’s return from the Work Release Center to the
Clark County Jail did not constitute a sufficiently significant incremental reduction in
freedom to be regarded as a deprivation of liberty under the Due Process Clause.
To elaborate: while in the Work Release Program, Bennett was required to abide
by a strict weekly schedule which was tailored to his particular situation and overseen by
his Case Manager. See Participant Handbook, Dkt. 161-6 at 4. If Bennett failed to
properly follow the required schedule procedures each week, he became subject to
disciplinary action and was not allowed to leave the Work Release Center. Id. at 17. In
addition, strict controls were placed on his movements, both inside and outside of the
Work Release Center. He was required to secure staff permission before entering or
exiting the building and to sign in and out at security desk each time he left the facility.
Id. The work-release facility was located in the same building as the Clark County Jail,
and when entering, Bennett had to pass through three locked doors, entry to which was
provided via an intercom contact with the Sheriff’s Office, after providing his name and
bed number. Id. at 16. While housed in the Work Release Center, he was not allowed to
possess a cellular phone, matches, lighters, or any tobacco products, beyond “Door 1.” Id.
at 19. Once inside the Work Release Center, he was required to obtain permission to
leave his housing or laundry area and to cross into any red or yellow restricted areas;
other areas, such as the “Administrative Area” remained entirely off-limits to him. Id. at
As a work-release participant, Bennett was also subject to randomized warrantless
searches and seizures extending to both his person and his property. A search of
Bennett’s person was conducted each time he entered the facility, involving the removal
of his shoes and socks for inspection, and any personal belongings he brought into the
facility were also checked. Id. at 18. In addition, Security Officers were authorized to
conduct K-9 unit searches, pat down searches, bed searches, locker searches, AlcoSensors, and urine drug tests of participants at “any time inside or outside the facility” Id.
at 18, 23.
Other controls within the facility included, inter alia¸ keeping one’s living unit
and bunk area in compliance with specific guidelines, not possessing more than $20 at a
time, not borrowing clothing from another participant, or wearing jewelry, large belt
buckles, or maroon-colored shirts, remaining in one’s bunk without talking during
mandatory quiet time, and complying with a strict dress code and hygiene regimen. Id. at
When Bennett was permitted to leave the facility, his time away was strictly
scheduled and monitored. His travel was, in fact, extremely limited. Bennett was
authorized to travel only to and from his place of employment, unless an appointment
requiring him to be elsewhere had been previously authorized by his Case Manager. Id. at
17. If at an approved location outside the Work Release Center, Bennett was required to
secure permission from the Center’s security desk prior to changing his location and then
to report his return to the original location. Id. at 14. For example, while at work, if
Bennett wished to “go on a meal break,” he was required to call the security desk before
leaving his job location to get permission to be elsewhere and then call back upon his
return to work. Id. As the Program Handbook stated: “Work release Staff shall know of
[all participants’] whereabouts at all times.” Id. at 17. Moreover, a failure to return to the
facility within one hour of the allotted “outside” time or failing to account for any time
periods outside the facility was punishable through sanctions including loss of earned
good-time credits, reductions in rewards levels, restrictions of privileges, and restitution
for any amount of loss. Id. at 29.
Bennett’s ability to reestablish connections in the outside community while
participating in the Work Release Program remained virtually nonexistent due to the
many limitations placed on him by the Program. Even with regard to family, visitors were
not allowed to have contact with participants at the Center. Through good conduct and
compliance with program rules, participants were allowed to achieve a “reward level”
status that would make possible passes allowing them to visit family outside of the
Center, but such passes were limited in number and duration and required pre-approval
by the participant’s Case Manager, and the prompt return by the participant to the Center,
where he would be required to submit to a drug test. Id. at 16.
Taken together, these restrictions make clear that, unlike a post-release probationer
or parolee, Bennett was not permitted to live free of the typical restrictions associated
with imprisonment; his participation in the Work Release Program entailed his being “a
prisoner serving a portion of his confinement in a different location from prison.” See
Domka, 523 F.3d at 781 n. 3 (noting “that between the constant electronic monitoring, the
fact that he was not allowed to leave his home except to go to work or for other preapproved reasons, the frequent Sobrietor tests, etc., [the work-release participant could]
appropriately be characterized as a prisoner serving a portion of his confinement in a
different location from prison.”) (internal quote omitted). Thus, his transfer from the
Work Release Center to the Clark County Jail did not constitute “a sufficiently large
incremental reduction in freedom” to give rise to a cognizable deprivation of an inherent
liberty interest under the Due Process Clause when he was removed from the program
and placed back in jail. Paige, 341 F.3d at 643.
State-Created Liberty Interests
The Supreme Court has also recognized that in the absence of an inherent liberty
interest, “States may under certain circumstances create liberty interests which are
protected by the Due Process Clause.” Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483–84 (1995).
Bennett contends that the State created a protected liberty interest in his remaining
in the Work Release Program through enactment of the provisions of the Clark County
Work Release Participant Handbook, the Clark County Conditions of Work Release, the
Clark County Work Release Operational Policy & Procedure Manual, and Ind. Code §
35-38-2.6-5. He maintains that these promulgations provided him the opportunity to
request a hearing before an Administrative Hearing Board to pass on any accusations of a
rules violation, followed by a hearing before his sentencing court prior to his removal
from the Program. Pl.’s Resp. at 23–25.
Defendants rejoin that Bennett’s contention misconstrues the legal import of the
provisions of the Handbook, the Conditions Contract, and the Policy & Procedure
Manual on which he relies. They are, Defendants argue, inapplicable to Bennett because
his violations (failing to account for his time and failure make payment of fees) were
“Level 1/Class A offenses,” which, pursuant to the explicit terms of the Handbook, are
sanctionable without necessity of an Administrative Hearing. Defs.’ Reply at 6.
Defendants further contend that, similar to the holding in the Northern District of Indiana
case, White v. Steuben Cty., Ind., 2011 WL 4496504 at *4 (N.D. Ind. Sept. 27, 2011), the
statutory language found at Ind. Code § 35-38-2.6-5 does not apply to Bennett because he
was not placed “directly” into the Work Release Program at the time of his sentencing.
Id. at 10.
We need not delve into an analysis of the appropriate scope and application of the
Handbook or the Indiana Code reference, given that Bennett’s § 1983 claim asserts only
procedural due process violations under the Fourteenth Amendment. Not every statecreated right creates a cognizable liberty interest under the Fourteenth Amendment. See
Thielman v. Leean, 282 F.3d 478, 482 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing Sandin, 515 U.S. at 483).
Even if we were to hold that the provisions of the Handbook as well as the Indiana Code
provision are applicable to Bennett so as to confer on him a right to one or more hearings
prior to his removal from the work-release program, it does not necessarily follow that
these state-conferred rights give rise to a cognizable liberty interest under the Fourteenth
Amendment. Id. Having determined that no such Fourteenth Amendment right exists
here, there is no need to further discuss the provisions’ scope and application. 2
Bennett’s focus on the “discretionary” aspects of the above-referenced guidelines
and statutes is thus misplaced. See Pl.’s Resp. at 23 (contending that the state created a
protected liberty interest “by placing substantive limitations on official discretion”)
(quoting Smith v. Stoner, 594 F. Supp. 1091, 1105 (N.D. Ind. 1984)). Prior to the
Supreme Court’s decision in Sandin, in order to determine whether a state-conferred right
was cognizable under the Fourteenth Amendment, courts examined the language of the
guidelines, regulations, and state laws at issue to determine whether they contained
“mandatory language” which “created an enforceable expectation that the state would
produce a particular outcome with respect to the prisoner’s conditions of confinement.”
Sandin, 515 U.S. 472–73 (citing Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460 (1983)). But the Court’s
approach in Sandin shifted the analysis, eschewing a focus on the language of the
particular regulations at issue, which would implicitly encourage prisoners to comb
through prison guidelines, regulations, and even state statutes in search of mandatory
Neither do we address the merits of any a state-law cause of action which Bennet may be entitled to
assert under the Handbook or §35-38-2.6-5 based on the lack of his being granted a hearing prior to his
transfer to the Clark County Jail. Bennett has raised only constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 in this lawsuit, which necessarily limits the scope of our review in this order. That said, our ruling
should not be viewed as a lack of concern over the facts underlying Bennett’s claims. His inability to
garner any response from jail officials to his numerous requests so that he might challenge his
incarceration in a timely way is at best unfair, if true. Custodians who manage penal institutions are
charged with maintaining an ongoing vigilance so that no prisoner under their care gets lost in the shuffle.
Our docket reflects a number of related claims by Plaintiffs against the Clark County Jail, which present
different fact patterns; we address here only the constitutional question presented by Bennett: whether, as
a prisoner serving out his sentence in a work-release center, he was entitled to Fourteenth Amendment
due process protections prior to his transfer to the Clark County Jail.
language on which to base entitlements to various state-conferred privileges. 515 U.S. at
481. The Supreme Court noted that by drawing negative inferences from such mandatory
directives, courts “create disincentives for states to codify prison management
procedures in the interest of uniform treatment” and “le[a]d to the involvement of federal
courts in the day-to-day management of prisons, often squandering judicial resources
with little offsetting benefit to anyone.” Id.
Given this shift in analysis handed down by the Sandin Court, though state law
may still create constitutionally cognizable liberty interests, lower courts are to focus less
on the language of specific regulations and more on “the nature of the deprivation.” 515
U.S. at 483–84. Under the Sandin doctrine, the Court ruled that state-created liberty
interests “will be generally limited to freedom from restraint which, while not exceeding
the sentence in such an unexpected manner as to give rise to protection by the Due
Process Clause of its own force, nonetheless imposes atypical and significant hardship on
the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” 515 U.S. at 483 (internal
Lower courts have interpreted the phrase “in relation to the ordinary incidents of
prison life” to mean, under Sandin, that the appropriate comparison is not between the
prisoner’s conditions of confinement before and after the alleged deprivation, but rather
between the prisoner’s post-deprivation liberties and the liberties typically associated
with incarceration. See e.g., Hinton v. Wells, 2006 WL 3192381, at *4 (W.D. Wis. Nov.
1, 2006). Accordingly, in this case before us, which involves an inmate’s removal from a
work-release program, we must ask “whether [his] removal was atypical or significant
when compared to the experience of the large number of prisoners who spend the
duration of their sentences in prison.” White, 2011 WL 4496504, at *10 (citing Hinton,
2006 WL 3192381 at *4)). Given that state-jail inmates typically serve out their sentences
in institutional confinement, the exception to which is the opportunity, to some, to serve a
portion of their sentences in a work-release program, courts within (and some outside)
our Circuit have consistently held that a jail inmate does not enjoy a state-created liberty
interest in participating in a work-release program. See e.g., Asquith v. Dep’t of
Corrections, 186 F.3d 407, 412 (3d Cir. 1999); Dominique v. Weld, 73 F.3d 1156, 1160
(1st Cir. 1996); Calendar v. Sioux City Residential Treatment Facility¸88 F.3d 666, 669
(8th Cir. 1996); White, 2011 WL 4496504 at *4 (N.D. Ind. Sept. 27, 2011); Hinton v.
Wells, 2006 WL 3192381, at *4 (W.D. Wis. Nov. 1, 2006); Hamilton v. Peters, 919 F.
Supp. 1168, 1172 (N.D. Ill. 1996).
We see no reason to depart from this analysis here. Bennett has failed to identify
any hardship endured by him during his seventy-four-day incarceration in the Clark
County Jail which could be characterized as “atypical” or “significant” when compared to
the normal experience of a prisoners spending the entirety of their sentences in
institutional confinement. As such, he has failed to establish that he possessed a statecreated liberty interest in his continued participation in the work-release program such
that he was entitled to receive due process protections prior to his removal therefrom.
Because Bennett, as a prisoner serving out his executed sentence in the Clark
County Work Release Center, did not possess an inherent or state-created liberty interest
in remaining in the Clark County Work Release Program, he cannot maintain a
cognizable Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim based on his temporary
removal from the Program and placement in the Clark County Jail. Given his inability to
maintain his claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, we need not determine which
Defendant(s), if any, may have been held liable, and in what capacity, for his alleged
constitutional deprivation. Further, because Bennett has abandoned his Eighth
Amendment claims of cruel and unusual punishment, Defendants are entitled to summary
judgment on all of Bennett’s claims. We therefore GRANT Defendants’ Motion for
Summary Judgment [Docket No. 159] and hereby DISMISS James Bennett’s claims.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
Jonathan Paul Nagy
INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL
James Michael Bolus, Jr.
JAMES M. BOLUS, JR. P.S.C.
R. Jeffrey Lowe
KIGHTLINGER & GRAY, LLP-New Albany
Whitney Elizabeth Wood
KIGHTLINGER & GRAY, LLP-New Albany
Elizabeth A. Knight
KNIGHT HOPPE KURNIK & KNIGHT LTD (Schererville)
Joseph W. Smith
KNIGHT HOPPE KURNIK & KNIGHT LTD (Schererville)
Brian P. Butler
LAW OFFICE OF BRIAN BUTLER
Michael A. Augustus
MICHAEL A. AUGUSTUS, PSC
David A. Arthur
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
SOERGEL LAW OFFICE PLLC
James S. Stephenson
STEPHENSON MOROW & SEMLER
Rosemary L. Borek
STEPHENSON MOROW & SEMLER
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