622 F.3d 315 (3rd Cir. 2010), 07-3530, Renchenski v. Williams

Docket Nº:07-3530.
Citation:622 F.3d 315
Opinion Judge:FUENTES, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:Charles S. RENCHENSKI, Appellant v. Thomas WILLIAMS, Joseph Piazza, Pa. Department of Corrections, Larry Kaskie, Unit Manager of E-Unit at SCI Coal Township, Frank D. Gillis, former Superintendent at SCI Coal Township, Kandis K. Dascani, Grievance Officer at SCI Coal Township, John Sidler, Licensed Psychologist Manager at SCI Coal Township, Sharon
Attorney:Jeffrey M. Theodore (ARGUED), David H. Coburn, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Washington, DC, Attorneys for Appellant. Howard G. Hopkirk (ARGUED), Office of the Attorney General, Harrisburg, PA, Attorney for Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before: FUENTES, ALDISERT, and ROTH, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:October 04, 2010
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
 
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622 F.3d 315 (3rd Cir. 2010)

Charles S. RENCHENSKI, Appellant

v.

Thomas WILLIAMS, Joseph Piazza, Pa. Department of Corrections, Larry Kaskie, Unit Manager of E-Unit at SCI Coal Township, Frank D. Gillis, former Superintendent at SCI Coal Township, Kandis K. Dascani, Grievance Officer at SCI Coal Township, John Sidler, Licensed Psychologist Manager at SCI Coal Township, Sharon M. Burks, Chief Grievance Officer in the Department of Corrections main office Camp Hill, Pa.

No. 07-3530.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.

October 4, 2010

Argued July 12, 2010.

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Jeffrey M. Theodore (ARGUED), David H. Coburn, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Washington, DC, Attorneys for Appellant.

Howard G. Hopkirk (ARGUED), Office of the Attorney General, Harrisburg, PA, Attorney for Appellees.

Before: FUENTES, ALDISERT, and ROTH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

FUENTES, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff Charles Renchenski is serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole for murder in the first degree. Although he was never charged with, nor convicted of, a sexual offense, in 2005 Defendants classified Renchenski as a sex offender and recommended his enrollment in Pennsylvania's Sex Offender Treatment Program (" SOTP" ). Renchenski filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging that his forced participation in sex offender treatment therapy violates several constitutional rights, including his: Fourteenth Amendment right to due process before being labeled a sex offender; Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination; and Sixth Amendment right to have a jury adjudicate his guilt. He also challenges the District Court's conversion of Defendants' motion to dismiss into a summary judgment motion without granting him leave to take discovery. Because we hold that an inmate who has never been charged with, nor convicted of, a sex offense is entitled to due process before Pennsylvania classifies him as a sex offender, we reverse the District Court's Order entering summary judgment as to his procedural due process claim. We affirm the District Court in all other respects.

I.1

Renchenski is incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township, Pennsylvania (" SCI-CT" ), serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for his 1985 conviction of the murder-by-strangulation of Rose Marie Foley. Renchenski's Pre-Sentence Report (" PSR" ) indicated that Ms. Foley was found in an isolated rural area, and that " the body ... was clad only in a bra (which was unsnapped and pulled over the breasts), a blouse which was also above the breasts, and socks." (App. at 317.) An autopsy revealed multiple blunt force trauma to the face and trunk, and abrasions and contusions on Foley's genitals. Additionally, her right breast was mutilated. Under interrogation, Renchenski admitted that he had cut away the skin around the victim's nipple in an attempt to prevent law enforcement from identifying his bite-marks. Finally, the autopsy noted hemorrhages in the area of her clitoris and vulva.

While Renchenski was never charged with, or convicted of, sexually assaulting Foley, his PSR did indicate " sexual" as a

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" past or present problem area." (App. at 321.) Nevertheless, his original correctional plan did not designate sexual as an area of concern.2 From 1990 through 1999, however, Renchenski's prescriptive correctional program plan was altered to indicate that sexual was an area of concern. When Pennsylvania adopted its state-wide sex offender treatment program in 1999, prison officials granted Renchenski's request that this determination be removed from his correctional plan.3 This status quo remained in place until 2003, when Renchenski was transferred to SCI-CT.

Renchenski contends that after being transferred to SCI-CT, he complained to Defendant Williams, a prison counselor, about his loss of single-cell status. When his complaints went unanswered, Renchenski called Williams " slothful." Renchenski alleges that, in retaliation for this insult, Williams classified him as a sex offender and enrolled him in a slew of prison programs, including sex offender orientation, sex offender core, and sex offender maintenance.

Pennsylvania's SOTP is entitled " Responsible Living: A Sex Offender Treatment Program " and consists of a seven-phase behavioral modification course. Section 11(B) of the DOC's Policy Statement on Access to Mental Health Care (" Policy 13.8.1" ) governs " risk/need assessment" and outlines how the DOC evaluates sex offenders. It does not delineate how the DOC determines whether or not an inmate is a sex offender. Id. After the initial assessment, the treatment provider recommends a final risk level based on, among other things, the risk of recidivism, the attitude the inmate displays regarding sexual crimes, and any indication that the offender has a primary sexual attraction to children. Id. For prisoners assessed as moderate-to-high-risk offenders, the seven-step SOTP consists of one weekly two-hour group therapy session comprised of no more that fifteen participants that continues for approximately two years. See Policy 13.8.1 § 11(C)(2)(f). Throughout an inmate's involvement in the program, he or she can accumulate points for attendance, participation, and for completing homework assignments and major projects. An inmate " must accrue 85% of the total possible points in order to ‘ graduate’ from the program." Id. While an inmate who denies a past history of sexual violence may initially participate in treatment, if he or she persists in maintaining his or her innocence, the inmate will be dismissed from the program.

The SOTP is run by qualified professionals. In order to serve as a credentialed treatment provider, a staff member must have a graduate degree in behavioral health or social sciences and at least two years of experience with sex offender treatment. Alternatively, a staff member may be credentialed if he or she has an undergraduate degree in behavioral health

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and at least 2,000 hours of clinical sex offender treatment. The SOTP is supervised by a Licensed Psychologist Manager.

Renchenski contested his sex offender designation, and his complaint was referred to John Sidler, SCI-CT's Chief Psychologist. Sidler dismissed his complaint, because " based on the official version of the offense, there [was] a high level of sexual content involved. [Therefore, t]he Psychology Department supports ... [the] decision to add sexual offender status." (App. at 84.) Sidler noted that a correctional plan, which is developed for each inmate, is designed to address an inmate's individual needs to prevent recidivism and to ensure a smooth transition back into society. Sidler indicated that he approved of Renchenski's designation as a sex offender because " [t]he official version of the crime indicate[d] that there was a sexual component to the crime, as Renchenski was engaged in a sexual act with the victim when the homicide occurred." ( Id. at 286.) Sidler also stated that the " decision to recommend Renchenski for sex offender programs was based upon the [t]reatment team's evaluation of him coupled with the sexual component of Renchenski's offense." ( Id. at 287.)

While Defendants claim that Renchenski's name currently appears on the institutional sex offender roster as a " possible sex offender," they maintain that he has not been classified as a sex offender because he has refused to submit to an assessment. ( Id. at 289.) This assertion contradicts DOC's own policy, which provides that " [e]very inmate who refuses assessment and/or treatment shall be identified as falling in the Moderate/High risk category [of sex offender]." Policy 13.8.1 § 11(B)(4)(g). Moreover, Defendants' argument that Williams merely recommended to the Psychology Department that Renchenski be assessed to determine whether or not he needed sex offender treatment is unsupported by the record, which reveals that Williams recommended Renchenski participate in three specific sex offender programs: orientation, core and maintenance. Id. at 15; (App. at 265, 475.) Defendants also admit that, under the current SOTP, at the time the DOC commences a new treatment group, Renchenski would be assessed for risk level and not for whether or not he needs treatment. See Appellee's Br. at 15.4

Defendants also contend that while " the recommended programming may be a requirement of an inmate's correctional plan, an inmate's participation in the specific program is voluntary." Id. at 10. This claim is also belied by the record. For example, Policy 13.8.1 § 119(C)(1)(h) and (i) mandates that sex offenders participate in treatment by using the phrase " shall receive all seven phases" of therapy. Furthermore, in response to Renchenski's grievance, Larry Kaskie, the Unit Manager, noted that if the Psychology Department determines he needs counseling, he will be required to submit to the program. (App. at 475.) In a subsequent correspondence, John Castrignano, a Psychological Services Specialist, informed Renchenski that " Participation in Sex Offender Programming is required as part of your Correctional Plan [.]" ( Id. at 458.) (emphasis in original); see also ( Id. at 454 [August 19, 2003 Letter from Superintendent Gillis to Renchenski indicating that it was in his " best interest to comply" with treatment.] ). And while Renchenski concedes

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that his refusal to participate has no effect on his parole status, he notes that his protests nonetheless subject him to substantial penalties, including the loss of his prison job, assignment to disciplinary custody for...

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