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Indiana Federal Court Certifies Habeas Corpus Class of Prisoners Disciplined for Refusing to Admit Guilt in Sex Offender Program

On September 30, 2015, a U.S. district court certified a class of Indiana state prisoners who refused to admit their guilt as part of the Indiana Sex Offender Monitoring and Management Treatment Program, and who were subjected to disciplinary sanctions as a result.

In 2006, the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) made participation in the program mandatory for any prisoner with a prior sex offense conviction. Admitting guilt and providing a list of prior offenses, including unadjudicated crimes, is a required part of the program. The information is not private and may be shared with DOC personnel, parole and probation officials, child protective services, law enforcement, and sex offender, mental health and substance abuse treatment providers.

Donald Lacy, an Indiana prisoner, refused to admit his guilt. He was disciplined, lost around 2,460 days of good time and was demoted in time-earning class. He then filed a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his loss of good time and time-earning class as a result of disciplinary action for refusing to admit guilt violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Lacy appealed. The Seventh Circuit reversed, but held that because Lacy sought restoration of his good time credits, his claims should have been brought in a habeas corpus petition. Lacy agreed to convert his lawsuit into a habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

On remand the district court examined Lacy’s motion for class certification, noting that a procedure similar to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 was appropriate for habeas actions. Lacy’s case was consolidated with those of five other Indiana prisoners who had filed similar habeas petitions. The court held that they were adequate representatives of the class, and that the action met the criteria for numerosity, commonality and typicality.

Therefore, the district court certified a class that included all DOC prisoners who were required to participate in the Sex Offender Monitoring and Management Treatment Program but refused to do so because they would not confess their guilt on the primary offense or disclose other criminal conduct as required by the program, and who were subjected to disciplinary sanctions in the form of lost good time credits and/or demotion in time-earning class as a result. The case remains pending. See: Lacy v. Butts, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Ind.), Case No. 1:13-cv-00811-RLY-DML. 

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Related legal case

Lacy v. Butts