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Eleventh Circuit: No Right to Spanish-language RDAP Program

In an April 2, 2012 unpublished per curiam ruling, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a federal prisoner’s lawsuit seeking reinstatement of a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Spanish-language substance abuse program.

The suit claimed that the BOP had eliminated its Spanish-language Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP), and the program was delivered only in English.

Federal prisoner Israel Rodriguez Velazquez, who speaks only Spanish, brought a Bivens action that argued elimination of the RDAP’s Spanish program deprived him of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment and violated his First Amendment right to speak the official language of Puerto Rico, where he lived prior to his arrest.

The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, noting that Velazquez “has no constitutional right to vocational, rehabilitative or educational programs,” citing Franklin v. District of Columbia, 960 F.Supp. 394, 431 (D.D.C. 1997); Women Prisoners of the D.C. Department of Corrections v. District of Columbia, 93 F.3d 910, 927 (D.C. Cir. 1996); Inmates of Occoquan v. Barry, 844 F.2d 828, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1988); Garza v. Miller, 688 F.2d 480, 485 (7th Cir. 1982); and Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1255 (9th Cir. 1982).

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed “for the reasons stated in the cases and authorities relied on by the district court,” finding that Velazquez “failed to state a case for the denial of equal protection under the Due Process Clause or the denial of his First Amendment right to speak.” See: Velazquez v. Weinman, 466 Fed.Appx. 806 (11th Cir. 2012) (unpublished), cert. denied.

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Related legal case

Velazquez v. Weinman