WILLIAMSON v. NORTHAMPTON COUNTY PRISON et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE MITCHELL S. GOLDBERG ON 5/9/12. 5/10/12 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PETITIONER AND FAXED. (jpd)
IN THE UNITED TATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRIC OF PENNSYLVANIA
NORTHAMPTON COUNTY PRISON, et al.
incarcerated at the
Plaintiff Matthew Williamson,
Northampton County Correctional Fac1lity, filed this pro se civil
rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
its Warden and Deputy Warden.
1983 against the prison and
He s eks to proceed in forma
For the following reason , the Court will grant
plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss his
complaint without prejudice to his
iling an amended complaint.
Plaintiff claims that prison o ficials have been deducting
half of the money deposited in his
"room and board."
rison account to pay for
He contends that this policy of taking his
money to pay for such expenses is u constitutional and illegal
because it is not authorized by sta ute or Pennsylvania's
rievances challenging the
policy but was informed that the is ue was not grievable.
seeks a return of the monies .that w re taken from him - $105.00
over the course of approximately si
declaratory and injunctive relief.
months - as well as
STANDARD OF REVIEW
to proceed in forma
The Court grants plaintiff
pauperis because he has satisfied t e requirements set out in 28
Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) (2) (B) applies.
That provision requires the Court t
dismiss the Complaint if it
is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant
complaint fails to state a claim·
1915(e) is governed by
the same standard applicable to mot ons to dismiss under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) (6), s1e Tourscher v. McCullough,
184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d
ich requires the Court to
determine whether the Complaint con ains "sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state
plausible on its face."
claim to relief that is
Ashcroft v. I bal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(quotations omitted) .
In Tillman v. Lebanon County Correctional Facility, 221 F.3d
410 (3d Cir. 2000), the Third Circul't considered constitutional
challenges to a program that requir d inmates to pay toward their
The plaintiff in
hat case was assessed a fee
of $10.00 per day for housing costs associated with his
incarceration in accordance with t e prison's "Cost Recovery
Upon his release from
he had accrued a debt in
excess of $4,000.00 as a result of
costs of his incarceration.
eing required to share in the
among other things, that
the Cost Recovery Program violated the Eighth Amendment and the
Due Process Clause.
The Tillman court held that pr son officials could,
consistent with the constitution, d duct monies from inmates'
accounts to recover some of the cos s of their imprisonment.
F.3d at 417-23.
The deductions wer
not "fines" within the
Eighth Amendment and did not otherw'se violate the Eighth
Amendment because "[the plaintiff]
as never denied room, food,
or other necessities," nor was his
entence extended due to his
inability to pay.
Id. at 419.
Add tionally, the court found no
violation of substantive or procedu al due process.
to procedural due process, the cour
explained the prison had
satisfied its obligations because:
The assessments and takings pu
program involve routine matter
with a low risk of error. To
mistakes such as erroneous ass
incorrect takings might occur,
corrected through the prison's
without any undue burden on a
Id. at 422 (footnote omitted).
suant to the
he extent that
they may be
Fin lly, the court rejected the
plaintiff's challenge to the legali y of the program because,
even though no statute authorized t e deductions,
Recovery Program was duly promulgat d, not by the state, but by
the county prison board, which has
the government and management of th
xclusive authority regarding
Id. at 423
(quotations and alteration omitted) .
This case is indistinguishable from Tillman.
Nothing in the
complaint suggests that plaintiff w uld be subject to a longer
sentence or that he would be denied basic human needs if he did
not pay a certain amount of money t ward his room and board.
id. at 419; see also Hollowa
(8th Cir. 2012)
ness, 666 F.3d 1076, 1080
prisoners for essential prison serv'ces, at least in the absence
of a showing that the
deprivation of a
Additionally, the fact that the policy in
question is not grounded in a statu
Pennsylvania's Attorney General doe
not establish that it is
plaint suggests that the
Indeed, nothing in
program in this case was not
y authorized by the board of
inspectors of Northampton County Co rectional Facility, see 61
Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann.
See Tillman, 221 F. 3d
seen barriers to the promulgation
prison officials, and neither do
orne other appropriate
423 ("Other courts have not
such programs by prisons and
Furthermore, as in Tillman,
assessments involve routine
matters of accounting with a low
challenge to the policy itself migh
not be grievable, nothing in
the complaint suggests that, had pr son officials deducted more
than authorized, plaintiff would no
have been able to challenge
the erroneous deduction through the prison's grievance system.
Plaintiff also suggests that t e deduction of half of his
incoming funds for room and board v olates the Takings Clause,
which provides that "private proper y [shall not] be taken for
public use, without just compensati
U.S. Const. Amend. V.
"[A] reasonable user fee is not a t
if it is imposed for the
reimbursement of the cost
v. Sperry Corp., 493 U.S.
received a benefit in the form of r om and board for the monies.
he paid. 2
Furthermore, nothing in t e complaint suggests that the
funds were not, in fact, used for r om and board or that the
ed, plaintiff paid only
amount taken was unreasonable.
$105.00 for a period of over six
Barrett, 345 F.3d 1083, 1089-90 (9t
deduction of monies from prisoners' accounts to pay for expense
of creating and maintaining those a counts did not constitute an
(3d Cir. 1997)
(observing, in asses
policy requiring inmates to pay a s
fee when they sought
health care, that "this is not a si uation in which the inmates
are deprived of the benefits of the r property and receive
nothing in return").
A district court should ordina ily allow a pro se plaintiff
Tillman did not address wheth r deducting funds from an
inmate's account to apply toward th costs of his incarceration
constitutes an unconstitutional tak ng.
Notably, if plaintiff were no
would have incurred reasonable livi
F.3d at 419 (observing that "there
constitutional right to be free of
plaintiff can meet and would be re
world") (alterations and quotations
incarcerated, he necessarily
See Tillman, 221
s, of course, no general
personal expense that the
ired to meet in the outside
to amend his complaint, unless amen ment would be inequitable or
293 F.3d 103, 113-14
See Gra son v. Ma
(3d Cir. 2002).
be given an
in the event he can cure
opportunity to file an amended comp
any of the deficiencies noted above. 3
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss the
complaint without prejudice to plai tiff's filing an amended
An appropriate order fo lows.
As the Court has concluded th
to plaintiff's claims, his motion f
denied without prejudice to his ren
time. See Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 1
determining whether to grant counse
consider as a threshold matter the
t there is currently no merit
r appointment of counsel is
wing the motion at a later
7, 155 (3d Cir. 1993) (in
, "the district court must
erits of the plaintiff's
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