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State Ordered to Reimburse Prisoner Who Was Not Allowed to Complete College Classes

An Illinois prisoner was awarded $1,225 by a state Court of Claims for tortious interference with a business relationship by the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC).

While incarcerated at Stateville Penitentiary, Marshan Terrell Allen received permission from prison staff to enroll in two college correspondence courses from Ohio University. He paid $1,125 for the classes.

Before Allen could finish the coursework, however, he was transferred from Stateville to the Western Illinois Correctional Center (WICC).

Allen’s counselor at WICC was willing to proctor his exams for the classes, but WICC officials would not let him. Meanwhile, Allen paid an extra $100 to Ohio University for a course extension while he attempted to work out the proctor issue.

Allen filed a grievance over WICC’s refusal to let his counselor proctor his exams. The grievance officer responded that it was “an Administrative decision not to allow course work outside of WICC to be done.... WICC does not have the staffing or labor to accommodate inmate’s request.”

Allen offered to compensate WICC for staff time associated with proctoring his exams, but prison officials refused. He also requested a transfer back to Stateville or any other facility that would let him finish his classes, but WICC denied his request.

Allen then filed suit against the State of Illinois in the Court of Claims, alleging that WICC had tortiously interfered with his business relationship with Ohio University. The court agreed.

Noting that WICC staff had failed to respond to Allen’s evidence, the court held that the state had “intentionally, unjustifiably, and maliciously interfered with claimant’s relationship with Ohio University.”

Further, even assuming that WICC had staffing problems, there was “no justification as to why any of [Allen’s] suggested alternatives were not utilized,” the court wrote.

Recognizing that the Court of Claims lacked “jurisdiction to review the disciplinary and administrative policies and decisions of the [IDOC],” the court held that Allen’s claims did not fall within that jurisdictional bar because he was “challenging the damages incurred due to the [state’s] policy of not allowing course work to be done outside of WICC.” See: Allen v. State of Illinois, Illinois Court of Claims, Case No. 09-CC-0164 (2010). The order is available on PLN’s website.

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Related legal case

Allen v. State of Illinois