586 F.Supp. 589 (W.D.Mo. 1984), 81-0891-CV-W-6, Safley v. Turner

Docket Nº:81-0891-CV-W-6, 82-0072-CV-W-6.
Citation:586 F.Supp. 589
Party Name:Leonard SAFLEY, et al., and Mary Webb, et al., individually and as a class of similarly situated people, Plaintiffs, v. William R. TURNER, et al., and David Blackwell, et al., Defendants.
Case Date:May 07, 1984
Court:United States District Courts, 8th Circuit, Western District of Missouri

Page 589

586 F.Supp. 589 (W.D.Mo. 1984)

Leonard SAFLEY, et al., and Mary Webb, et al., individually and as a class of similarly situated people, Plaintiffs,


William R. TURNER, et al., and David Blackwell, et al., Defendants.

Nos. 81-0891-CV-W-6, 82-0072-CV-W-6.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division.

May 7, 1984

Page 590

Floyd R. Finch, Blackwell, Sanders, Matheny, Weary & Lombardi, Kansas City, Mo., for plaintiffs.

Henry Herschel, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, Mo., for defendants.


SACHS, District Judge.


1. The Renz Correctional Institution (hereinafter "Renz") contains male and female prisoners. Most of the female inmates located at Renz are medium and maximum security level offenders. Some of the male inmates need special protection from other prisoners in Missouri penal institutions.

2. A class action has been certified to determine the constitutional status of inmate-to-inmate correspondence, visitation privileges relating to former inmates, and the right to marry. The focus of inquiry is

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the Renz institution, but the rights in issue are not restricted to Renz.

3. Renz has a minimum security perimeter without the added security elements, such as guard towers or walls that other maximum security units would possess. The other security institutions within the Missouri Correctional System have varying differences in perimeters, in population, and in security procedures and facilities.

4. Correspondence between inmates is supposedly regulated by divisional regulation 20-118.010(e):

Correspondence with immediate family members or inmates in other correctional institutions will be permitted. Such correspondence may be permitted between non-family members if the classification/treatment team of each inmate deems it in the best interests of the parties involved. Correspondence between inmates in all division institutions will be permitted concerning legal matters.

5. There have been instances where the divisional correspondence regulation has been violated. For example:

a. Letters have been stopped without notice or explanation to either the correspondent or the recipient;

b. Mail to and from persons not incarcerated has been stopped or refused on factually incorrect grounds or without legitimate justification;

c. Mail to incarcerated family members has been refused or returned without notification or explanation;

d. Mail with former inmates has been refused or returned without notification or explanation.

6. The provisions of the divisional correspondence regulation allowing the classification/treatment team of each inmate to prohibit inmate-to-inmate correspondence have not been followed at Renz. Theoretically the classification/treatment team uses psychological reports, conduct violations, and progress reports in deciding whether to permit correspondence. At Renz, however, the rule as practiced is that inmates may not write non-family inmates or receive mail from non-family inmates. The more restrictive practice is set forth in the Renz Inmate Orientation Booklet presented to each inmate upon arrival at Renz. The restrictive rule at Renz is commonly known throughout the Missouri Correctional System.

7. The Renz rule against inmate-to-inmate correspondence is enforced without a determination that the security or order of Renz or the rehabilitation of the inmate would be harmed by allowing the particular correspondence to proceed and without a determination that there is no less restrictive alternative to resolve any legitimate concerns of the Department of Corrections short of prohibiting all correspondence.

8. Inmates at most institutions in the Missouri Correctional System are permitted to correspond with inmates in most other institutions. The greatest restriction on inmate correspondence is practiced at Renz.

9. While there is no regulation that prohibits inmates from corresponding with persons who are not incarcerated, on at least one occasion outgoing mail to a non-incarcerated person was returned to the inmate and delivery refused because of derogatory remarks made about prison staff members.

10. Correspondence between inmates has been denied solely on the basis of the inmate's marital status.

11. Under an unwritten rule at Renz, prior approval is required before an inmate may write to another inmate regarding legal matters. Absent this approval, inmate-to-inmate legal mail routinely is opened, stopped, and refused in violation of the Department of Corrections' written rule.

12. The Division of Corrections maintains a computer listing of each inmate's potential enemies. This listing is available to all correctional officials and accompanies the inmate on transfers from institution to institution.

13. Correspondence between inmates has been denied despite evidence that the

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correspondence was desired simply to maintain wholesome friendships.

14. The staff at Renz has been able to scan and control outgoing and incoming mail, including inmate-to-inmate correspondence.

15. Prior to December of 1983, the Division of Corrections operated under an inmate marriage rule, designated 20.117.050, which (a) did not obligate the Missouri Division of Correction to assist an inmate who wanted to get married, but (b) did not authorize the superintendents of the various institutions to prohibit inmates from getting married. Inmates at Renz were, however, frequently denied permission to be married.

16. On December 1, 1983, after this litigation was filed, the Division of Corrections promulgated a new regulation which placed a burden upon the inmate to provide the institution with a compelling reason to permit an inmate marriage while the inmate is incarcerated.

17. At Renz female inmates have been refused permission to marry on several occasions on the unexplained ground that the proposed marriage was not in their "best interest," in the opinion of the superintendent. Marriage requests also have been denied because of an inmate's prior history of relationships with men.

18. Inmates in correctional institutions other than Renz and the Chillicothe Correctional Center (for women) routinely are allowed to be married upon request, assuming they otherwise satisfy Missouri's statutory requirements for marriage. Restrictions are exercised most strictly at Renz and Chillicothe. The restrictions applicable to female inmates are apparently generally motivated by "protective" attitudes.

19. The marriage of a number of inmates has been delayed or forbidden because of the pendency of this lawsuit. While this practice may have been unwisely sanctioned by defendants' prior counsel, it has the appearance of penalizing the inmate population because some inmates have chosen to litigate.

20. The current inmate marriage rule places an unreasonable burden upon the inmate to prove that there are "compelling" reasons for the marriage. The term "compelling" is not defined. Defendants, however, suggest that a reason for marriage normally would not be considered compelling unless the relationship had resulted in a pregnancy or an illegitimate child prior to the request.

21. Inmates have been informed that Renz does not permit marriages.

22. There is regular transportation between most of the correctional facilities within the Missouri System for medical, dental and transfer reasons and to transport nursing aides from Renz to the Missouri State Penitentiary. Inmates also travel for court appearances. Defendants have been able to successfully handle the security problems.

23. Renz has a regulation prohibiting visitation by former inmates for a period of six months. Regulation 618.020(5)(D) provides that:

[t]he existence of a criminal record does not constitute a barrier to visiting privileges. Each proposed visitor shall be considered individually by the casework staff and superintendent after six (6) months on release status. Individuals on parole status and conditional release desiring to visit residents of the institution must have written approval by the parole officer prior to final decision on [sic] the casework staff and the superintendent.

24. Visitation of prisoners by former inmates is permitted after they have been in a non-prison setting for six months. While the six month period admittedly is arbitrary, in the sense that five or seven months would serve the same interest, it is based partly on the security interest of the institution and partly on the belief that it is in the best rehabilitative interest of the inmate to sever ties with the prison environment for a period of time.

25. After the six month period has passed, the former inmate is then approved or disapproved in the same manner and by

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the same criteria as would be applied to any other prospective visitor to the institution.

26. All visitors must be approved by a review of a written application. Unapproved visitors are not permitted entrance to Renz except under exceptional circumstances.

27. Visitations by former inmates for the purpose of attending religious meeting or self-help meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous have been denied because of the absolute, non-discretionary application of the six month non-visitation rule.

28. Inmates have not been informed of their right to participate in a team with correctional officials in making decisions concerning the inmate's status. The "team concept" has not been described to inmates; the inmates have not been informed of their right to participate in decision-making other than as applicants.

29. Inmates have been occasionally threatened with the loss of writing privileges and visitation privileges with family members for attempting to exercise their correspondence and marriage rights.

30. Inmates have occasionally been threatened with the loss of parole and of parole privileges for attempting to exercise their...

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