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PLN v. GEO Group, IN, Complaint, censorship, 2014

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Case 1:14-cv-01957-JMS-DKL Document 1 Filed 11/26/14 Page 1 of 12 PageID #: 1

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
INDIANAPOLIS DIVISION
PRISON LEGAL NEWS, a project of
the HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENSE CENTER,

Case No.: 1:14-cv-1957

Plaintiff,

COMPLAINT FOR
DECLARATORY AND
INJUNCTIVE RELIEF UNDER
THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT 42
U.S.C. §1983 AND DAMAGES

v.
THE GEO GROUP, INC., a Florida
Corporation;
KEITH BUTTS, individually and in his
official capacity as Superintendent, New
Castle Correctional Facility,

JURY TRIAL DEMANDED

Defendants.

I.
1.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, PRISON LEGAL NEWS (“PLN” or “Plaintiff”), a project of the Human

Rights Defense Center (“HRDC”), brings this action to enjoin Defendants’ censorship of its
monthly journal, Prison Legal News, mailed to prisoners who are held in custody at the New
Castle Correctional Facility, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United
States Constitution.

Defendants’ have adopted and implemented mail policies that

unconstitutionally prohibit delivery of Plaintiff’s publication to prisoners in their custody and do
not afford the sender of censored mail due process notice and an opportunity to challenge the
censorship as required by the Constitution.
II.
2.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

This action is brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question), as this

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action arises under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1343 (civil rights), as this action seeks redress for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
3.

Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). On information and belief, at least

one Defendant resides within this judicial district, and the events giving rise to the claims
asserted herein all occurred within this judicial district.
4.

Plaintiff’s claims for relief are predicated upon 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which

authorizes actions to redress the deprivation, under color of state law, of rights, privileges and
immunities secured to the Plaintiff by the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S.
Constitution and laws of the United States.
5.

This Court has jurisdiction over claims seeking declaratory and injunctive relief

pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202, and Rule 57 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as
well as nominal and compensatory damages, against all Defendants.
6.

Plaintiff’s claim for attorneys’ fees and costs is predicated upon 42 U.S.C. § 1988,

which authorizes the award of attorneys’ fees and costs to prevailing plaintiffs in actions brought
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
7.

Plaintiff is informed, believes, and based thereon alleges that in engaging in the

conduct alleged herein, Defendants acted with the intent to injure, vex, annoy and harass
Plaintiff, and subjected Plaintiff to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of Plaintiff’s
rights with the intention of causing Plaintiff injury and depriving it of its constitutional rights.
8.

As a result of the forgoing, Plaintiff seeks exemplary and punitive damages

against the individual Defendants.
III.

PARTIES
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9.

Plaintiff, Prison Legal News (“PLN”), is a project of the Human Rights Defense

Center (“HRDC”), a not-for-profit, Washington charitable corporation recognized under §
501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code with principal offices in Lake Worth, Florida. PLN
publishes Prison Legal News, a monthly journal of prison news and analysis.
10.

Defendant, The GEO Group, Inc. (hereinafter “GEO”), is a Florida, for-profit

corporation headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida. GEO provides correctional operation and
management services to state and local governments around the world and to the Indiana
Department of Correction.
11.

At all times material to this action, GEO contracted with the Indiana Department

of Correction (hereinafter “IDOC”) to operate and manage the New Castle Correctional Facility
(hereinafter “New Castle”) in New Castle, Indiana. New Castle confines a number of prisoners
who have been prohibited by Defendants from receiving Plaintiff’s publications.
12.

Defendant Keith Butts is the Superintendent of New Castle. Defendant Butts has

ultimate responsibility for the promulgation and enforcement of all New Castle staff policies and
procedures and is responsible for the overall management of the prison.
13.

At all times material to this action, the actions of all Defendants as alleged herein

were taken under the authority and color of state law.
14.

At all relevant times, all Defendants were acting within the course and scope of

their employment as agents and/or employees of Defendant GEO.
IV.
15.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

PLN publishes and distributes a soft-cover monthly journal titled Prison Legal

News: Dedicated to Protecting Human Rights which contains news and analysis about prisons,
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jails and other detention facilities, prisoners’ rights, court rulings, management of prison
facilities, prison conditions, and other matters pertaining to the rights and/or interests of
incarcerated individuals.
16.

PLN has thousands of subscribers in the United States and abroad, including

prisoners, attorneys, journalists, public libraries, judges, and members of the general public.
PLN distributes its monthly publication to prisoners and law librarians in approximately 2,400
correctional facilities located across all fifty states, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons and
the Indiana Department of Corrections.
17.

The purpose of PLN, as stated in HRDC’s Articles of Incorporation, Article III,

Part 6, is to educate prisoners and the public about the destructive nature of racism, sexism, and
the economic and social costs of prisons to society.
18.

PLN engages in core protected speech and expressive conduct on matters of

public concern, such as the operation of prison facilities, prison conditions, prisoner health and
safety, and prisoners’ rights. Plaintiff’s monthly journal, as described above, contains political
speech and social commentary, which are entitled to the highest protection afforded by the U.S.
Constitution.
19.

For the past 24 years, the core of PLN’s mission has been public education,

advocacy and outreach on behalf of, and for the purpose of assisting, prisoners who seek legal
redress for infringements of their constitutionally guaranteed and other basic human rights.
PLN’s mission, if realized, has a salutary effect on public safety.
20.

Since February 2014, PLN has sent at least ninety (90) issues of its monthly

journal to subscribers at New Castle. On information and belief, the following issues were not
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delivered to the following intended recipients:
February 2014
Christopher Adams
Paul Land
March 2014
Christopher Adams
Paul Land
April 2014
Christopher Adams
Larry Cameron
May 2014
Christopher Adams
Larry Cameron
June 2014
Christopher Adams
Larry Cameron
July 2014
Christopher Adams
Larry Cameron
August 2014
Christopher Adams
Larry Cameron
Donald R Jones
Michael Martin
Bryon McClain
Oswaldo Santos
September 2014
Christopher Adams
Larry Cameron
Gary Anderson
Robbie Bluck
Thomas Boyd
Michael Casteel
Rocky Lee Critser
Doug DeVore
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Brian Gray
Ira Howard
Terrence Isaacs
Donald R Jones
Greg Lambert
John Lane-El
Michael Martin
Bryon McClain
Todd Petty
William E. Polk
Oswaldo Santos
Jarman Spurlock
Michael Tatlock
Charles Westerman
Jose Zuniga
October 2014
Christopher Adams
Larry Cameron
Gary Anderson
Robbie Bluck
Thomas Boyd
Michael Casteel
Rocky Lee Critser
Doug DeVore
Brian Gray
Ira Howard
Terrence Isaacs
Donald R Jones
Greg Lambert
John Lane-El
Michael Martin
Bryon McClain
Todd Petty
William E. Polk
Oswaldo Santos
Dylan Sinn
Jarman Spurlock
Michael Tatlock
Charles Westerman
Jose Zuniga
November 2014
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Christopher Adams
Larry Cameron
Gary Anderson
Robbie Bluck
Thomas Boyd
Michael Casteel
David Corbin
Rocky Lee Critser
Doug DeVore
Brian Gray
Ira Howard
Terrence Isaacs
Donald R Jones
Greg Lambert
John Lane-El
Michael Martin
Bryon McClain
Todd Petty
William E. Polk
Oswaldo Santos
Dylan Sinn
Jarman Spurlock
Michael Tatlock
Charles Westerman
Jose Zuniga
21.

The reason that Defendants have determined not to allow New Castle prisoners to

receive Prison Legal News is that Prison Legal News contains advertisements from companies
that provide pen-pal services to prisoners. The Indiana Department of Correction has a policy,
applicable to New Castle, prohibiting prisoners from participating in pen-pal services.
22.

GEO’s policy is explained in the attached memo (Exhibit 1) that was sent to the

population of New Castle by defendant Butts’ Executive Assistant.
23.

Defendants’ policy has no rational basis as many publications that prisoners are

allowed to receive contain advertisements promoting the sale of items and/or services that the
prisoners cannot access.
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24.

PLN will continue to mail copies of Prison Legal News to subscribers imprisoned

at New Castle.
25.

There is no legitimate penological reason for censorship of PLN’s monthly

journal.
26.

Defendants did not provide PLN, and still has not provided PLN, with any notice

of the rejection of the publications or with any opportunity to appeal their decisions to censor
PLN’s mail to prisoners in their custody.
27.

The accommodation of PLN’s rights with respect to written speech protected by

the Constitution, and the provision of due process of law, will not have any significant impact on
the prison, its staff or prisoners.
28.

Due to Defendants’ actions as described above, Plaintiff has suffered damages,

and will continue to suffer damages, including, but not limited to: the violation of the Plaintiff’s
constitutional rights; the impediment of Plaintiff’s ability to disseminate its political message;
frustration of Plaintiff’s non-profit organizational mission; diversion of resources; loss of
potential subscribers and customers; the inability to recruit new subscribers and supporters;
damage to its reputation; and the costs of printing, handling, mailing, and staff time.
IV.

CLAIMS

Count I – 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Violation of the First Amendment
29.

Each paragraph of this Complaint is incorporated as if restated fully herein.

30.

The acts described above constitute violations of Plaintiff’s rights, the rights of

other correspondents who have attempted to or intend to correspond with prisoners at New

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Castle, and the rights of prisoners confined at New Castle, under the First Amendment to the
United States Constitution.
31.

Plaintiff has a constitutionally protected liberty interest in communicating with

incarcerated individuals, a right clearly established under existing case law.
32.

The conduct of Defendants was objectively unreasonable and was undertaken

intentionally with malice, willfulness, and reckless indifference to the rights of others.
33.

Plaintiff’s injuries and the violations of its constitutional rights were directly and

proximately caused by the policies and practices of Defendants, which were the moving force of
the violations.
34.

The acts described above have caused damages to Plaintiff, and if not enjoined,

will continue to cause damage to Plaintiff.
35.

Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, and nominal, compensatory and

punitive damages against all Defendants.
Count II – 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Violation of the Fourteenth Amendment
36.

Each paragraph of this Complaint is incorporated as if restated fully herein.

37.

The acts described above constitute violations of Plaintiff’s rights, the rights of

other correspondents who have attempted to or intend to correspond with prisoners at New
Castle, and the rights of prisoners confined at New Castle, under the Fourteenth Amendment to
the United States Constitution.
38.

Because Plaintiff has a liberty interest in communicating with prisoners, PLN has

a right under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to receive notice of and an

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opportunity to appeal Defendants’ decisions to censor PLN’s written speech.
39.

Defendants’ policy and practice fail to provide Plaintiff and other senders with

notice and an opportunity to be heard.
40.

The conduct of Defendants was objectively unreasonable and was undertaken

intentionally with malice, willfulness, and reckless indifference to the rights of others.
41.

Plaintiff’s injuries and the violations of its constitutional rights were directly and

proximately caused by the policies and practices of Defendants, which were the moving force of
the violation.
42.

The acts described above have caused damages to Plaintiff, and if not enjoined,

will continue to cause damage to Plaintiff.
43.

Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, and nominal, compensatory, and

punitive damages against all Defendants.
Injunctive Allegations
44.

Defendants’ unconstitutional policies and practices are ongoing and continue to

violate Plaintiff’s constitutional rights and the rights of other correspondents and prisoners. As
such, there is no adequate remedy at law.
45.

Plaintiff is entitled to injunctive relief prohibiting Defendants from refusing to

deliver PLN’s monthly journal.

Plaintiff is also entitled to injunctive relief prohibiting

Defendants from censoring mail without due process of law.
V.

REQUEST FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, the Plaintiff respectfully requests relief as follows:
46.

A declaration that Defendants’ policies and practices violate the Constitution.
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47.

Nominal damages for each violation of Plaintiff’s rights by the Defendants.

48.

A preliminary and permanent injunction preventing Defendants from continuing

to violate the Constitution, and providing other equitable relief.
49.

Compensatory damages in an amount to be proved at trial.

50.

Punitive damages against the Defendants in an amount to be proved at trial.

51.

Costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, and under

other applicable law.
52.

Any other such relief that this Court deems just and equitable.
s/ Kenneth J. Falk
No. 6777-49
s/ Gavin M. Rose
No. 26565-53
s/ Kelly R. Eskew
No. 22953-49
ACLU of Indiana
1031 E. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202
317/635-4059
fax: 317/635-4105
kfalk@aclu-in.org
grose@aclu-in.org
keskew@aclu-in.org

Matthew Topic
Motion for Admission Pro Hac Vice to Be Filed
Arthur Loevy
Motion for Admission Pro Hac Vice to Be Filed
Jon Loevy
Motion for Admission Pro Hac Vice to Be Filed
LOEVY & LOEVY
312 N. May Street, Ste. 100
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Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 243-5900
Lance Weber
Motion for Admission Pro Hac Vice to Be Filed
Sabarish Neelakanta
Motion for Admission Pro Hac Vice to Be Filed
Human Rights Defense Center
PO Box 1151
Lake Worth, FL 33460
(561) 360-2523
Attorneys for Plaintiff
JURY DEMAND
Plaintiff, Prison Legal News, by and through its attorneys, hereby demands a trial by jury
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 38(b) on all issues so triable.

s/ Kenneth Falk
Kenneth Falk
Attorney at Law

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