United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BRISTOW MARCHANT, Magistrate Judge.
This action has been filed by the Plaintiff, pro se, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, an inmate with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC), alleges violations of his constitutional rights by the named Defendant.
The Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, Fed.R.Civ.P. on November 18, 2015. As the Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, a Roseboro order was entered by the Court on November 19, 2015, advising Plaintiff of the importance of a dispositive motion and of the need for him to file an adequate response. Plaintiff was specifically advised that if he failed to respond adequately, the Defendant's motion may be granted, thereby ending his case. Plaintiff thereafter filed a memorandum in opposition to the Defendant's motion on December 11, 2015, following which the Defendant filed a reply on December 21, 2015.
Defendant's motion is now before the Court for disposition.
Background and Evidence
Plaintiff alleges in his verified Complaint that since being incarcerated in March 2012, he has been trying to get his common law wife (Lorraine Michelle Jones) approved for visitation. Plaintiff alleges that Jones filled out the necessary forms but that she was not approved because she was not his wife. Plaintiff alleges that Jones then filled out another form, but on this form only put down that she was a friend. However, Plaintiff alleges that Jones was turned down again because of a dismissed criminal charge on her record. Plaintiff alleges that Jones then "went forth to have [the charge] expunged", following which she submitted yet another form, which Plaintiff alleges was denied because Jones was deemed to be a security risk.
Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant is the Visitation Coordinator for the SCDC. Plaintiff alleges that he filed a kiosk request asking the Defendant to forward to the Warden of his Institution (Plaintiff alleges that the Warden has the ability to approve visitations) a copy of Jones' application so that the Warden could make his own decision, but that the Defendant replied that she would not forward this information to the Warden. Plaintiff alleges that by refusing to approve Jones' visitation requests, the Defendant is violating his First Amendment right to associate with whomever he chooses.
Plaintiff alleges that he has exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to this claim, and in this lawsuit seeks declaratory and/or injunctive relief ordering that Jones be granted visitation privileges, as well as monetary damages. Plaintiff has attached to his Complaint a copy of the dismissal of his administrative claim with respect to this issue. See generally, Plaintiff's Verified Complaint, with attached Exhibit.
In support of summary judgment in this case, the Defendant has submitted an affidavit in which she attests that she is the Division Director of Visitation and Inmate Drug Testing for the SCDC. Defendant attests that, while it is recognized that visitation periods for inmates are of tremendous value to all involved, it is necessary that a system be in place to guard against the possibility of detrimental aspects which can infiltrate the visitation system, and that the SCDC reserves the right to suspend, deny, or terminate an inmate's or visitor's visitation privileges due to legitimate concerns regarding the security and safety of the institution.
With respect to the SCDC's visitation procedure and policy, Defendant attests that when an inmate is being processed at the Reception and Evaluation Center, they are provided up to fifteen (15) copies of the "Request for Visiting Privileges" form to send to their proposed visitors. Defendant attests that any proposed visitor must complete every section of the form, and that falsification of any part of an application will result in it being disapproved. Further, if an individual seeking visitation rights has a criminal record, the nature and extent of the person's criminal record, how recent a criminal activity was, and the person's relationship to the inmate is taken into consideration. Defendant attests that, as Division Director of Visitation, she is ultimately responsible for insuring that the SCDC's policies and guidelines are followed with respect to approving and disapproving visitors.
Defendant further attests that all inmates are requested to inform staff who their immediate family members are so that those immediate family members can be placed on the inmate's "relative" list. Defendant attests that on or about March 1, 2012, Plaintiff provided a list of relatives to be placed on his relative list, which did not include Jones. See also, attached Exhibit A. Thereafter, in June 2012, Defendant received a "Request for Visiting Privileges" form from Jones in which Jones indicated that she was Plaintiff's fiance. Defendant attests that that request was denied on June 13, 2012 because Jones had a history of prior convictions and was not an immediate family member. Defendant attests that she subsequently received a "Request for Visiting Privileges" form from Jones on or about July 10, 2012, on which Jones indicated that she was Plaintiff's common law wife. See also, attached Exhibit B. Defendant attests that that request further indicated that Jones had been an inmate with the SCDC or another state/federal correctional institution, and that because of this fact and since Jones had previously been an inmate, SCDC policy required that Jones be a member of Plaintiff's immediate family to be listed on his relative list. As previously indicated, Jones was not listed by the Plaintiff on his relative list. See attached Exhibit A. Defendant additionally attests that, as Jones had left blank certain portions of the form relating to her criminal convictions,  the request was denied according to SCDC policy.
Defendant attests that she then received another "Request for Visiting Privileges" form from Jones on August 13, 2013. In this request, Jones indicated that she was Plaintiff's girlfriend, and also stated that her name was "Lorine Marchelle Jones", instead of Lorraine Michelle Jones as she had stated in her previous requests. See also attached Exhibit C. Defendant further attests that the criminal convictions listed on this form were different from the convictions listed by Jones on her July 10, 2012 application. Therefore, this request was also denied.
Defendant attests that she then received another "Request for Visiting Privileges" form from Jones on or about May 2, 2014. On this request, Jones indicated that she was Plaintiff's "fiance/friend". See also attached Exhibit D. Additionally, Defendant attests that the criminal convictions listed on this form were again different than the convictions listed on her two previous applications, while Defendant had herself become aware of other convictions that Jones had that were not listed on any of the forms she had submitted. Therefore, and according to SCDC policy, this request was also denied.
Defendant attests that on July 15, 2013, Plaintiff submitted a Request to Staff Member form on which he indicated that he was filing for divorce, and that Plaintiff has also submitted numerous Request to Staff Member forms or Inmate Requests seeking to have Jones granted visitation privileges in which Plaintiff, variously, refers to Jones as his fiance, friend, or common law wife. See also attached Exhibit E. However, Defendant attests that, even though Plaintiff has referred to Jones as his common law wife, he has at no time ever listed Jones as a family member on his relative list. Even so, Plaintiff has been allowed other means of contact with Jones, such as by telephone and letter. Defendant attests that she herself specifically informed the Plaintiff that these other avenues of interacting with Jones are available to him. See also attached Exhibit F. Defendant attests that her determinations not to grant Jones visitation requests were consistent with SCDC policies and guidelines, including that Jones had ...