Filing 2


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IN THE UNITED TATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRIC OF PENNSYLVANIA CIVIL ACTION MATTHEW WILLIAMSON v. NO. 12-2333 NORTHAMPTON COUNTY PRISON, et al. MAYqtt:; 2012 GOLDBERG, J. 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. pauperis. § 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 I. iling an amended complaint. FACTS 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 Attorney General. Plaintiff filed rievances challenging the policy but was informed that the is ue was not grievable. He seeks a return of the monies .that w re taken from him - $105.00 over the course of approximately si declaratory and injunctive relief. 1 months - as well as II . STANDARD OF REVIEW to proceed in forma The Court grants plaintiff pauperis because he has satisfied t e requirements set out in 28 u.s.c. § 1915. 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 is immune. monetary relief from a defendant complaint fails to state a claim· er § Whether a 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." (2009) claim to relief that is Ashcroft v. I bal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (quotations omitted) . III. ANALYSIS 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 living expenses. 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 Program." Upon his release from he had accrued a debt in excess of $4,000.00 as a result of costs of his incarceration. He cl eing required to share in the among other things, that the Cost Recovery Program violated the Eighth Amendment and the 2 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 221 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 With respect 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 of accounting, he extent that ssments or they may be grievance program risoners' rights. 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, "the Cost 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 facility." 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 3 not pay a certain amount of money t ward his room and board. id. at 419; see also Hollowa (8th Cir. 2012) See ness, 666 F.3d 1076, 1080 ("The Constitution prohibit charging prisoners for essential prison serv'ces, at least in the absence of a showing that the deprivation of a fundamental right."). Additionally, the fact that the policy in approved by question is not grounded in a statu Pennsylvania's Attorney General doe illegal. 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. authority. § 1731(a), or 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 error. challenge to the policy itself migh Although a 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 4 public use, without just compensati U.S. Const. Amend. V. "[A] reasonable user fee is not a t if it is imposed for the United States reimbursement of the cost Here, plaintiff 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. Accordingly, plaintiff $105.00 for a period of over six Barrett, 345 F.3d 1083, 1089-90 (9t Cir. 2003) (holding that 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 constitutionality of 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 1 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. 2 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 5 incarcerated, he necessarily g expenses. See Tillman, 221 s, of course, no general personal expense that the ired to meet in the outside omitted). to amend his complaint, unless amen ment would be inequitable or futile. 293 F.3d 103, 113-14 See Gra son v. Ma (3d Cir. 2002). be given an Accordingly, plain in the event he can cure opportunity to file an amended comp any of the deficiencies noted above. 3 IV. CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss the complaint without prejudice to plai tiff's filing an amended complaint. An appropriate order fo lows. 3 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 claim"). 6 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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