The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN
Presently pending are the parties' cross-motions for partial summary judgment and the plaintiffs' motion for class certification.
The plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment makes a serious allegation of discrimination on the basis of alienage. At the outset of this opinion, the Court notes that this is a charge that the Court has evaluated carefully to determine if a basis for the allegation exists. While prisoners in federal prisoners have forfeited their liberty, they have not forfeited their constitutional protections. Prison policies that discriminate on the basis of alienage are subject to heightened judicial scrutiny.
However, the claim here that the defendants have discriminated against alien prisoner plaintiffs, who are subject to detainers issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS"), by denying those alien prisoners transfers to minimum security facilities, is not a matter of discrimination on the basis of alienage. While the fact of alienage is necessary to bring the individual within the sphere of the INS's authority, the INS issues a detainer for alienage-neutral reasons: because, for example, the alien is subject to deportation for a violation or violations of criminal law. Similarly, as explained in detail below, the challenged policy is alienage-neutral: all prisoners with any type of a detainer are barred from assignment to minimum security facilities. The defendants have made this judgment because of the risk of flight that arises when prisoners with detainers are faced with pending criminal trials or deportation hearings. In sum, although the defendants' policy turns upon the existence of a detainer, whether from the INS, another federal agency or some other jurisdiction, it is not based upon alienage.
As discussed in detail below, the plaintiffs' Equal Protection Clause challenge will be rejected; there is no evidence that the alien prisoner plaintiffs with detainers have been treated differently than non-alien prisoners with detainers. The plaintiffs' Due Process Clause challenge will also be rejected, because the defendants' detainer policy does not infringe upon a liberty interest that is entitled to constitutional protection.
Accordingly, the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment will be denied, the defendants' motion for partial summary judgment will be granted, and the plaintiffs' motion for class certification will be granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiffs, Hispanic prisoners incarcerated in District of Columbia correctional institutions, seek equitable relief, a declaratory judgment and damages arising from alleged violations of the First, Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000d, 2000bb, and under D.C. law pendent to the constitutional violations. The plaintiffs' claims fall into two general categories: first, relevant to the issue of class certification currently before the Court, they allege that the lack of Spanish-speaking staff and translators violates their constitutional rights because it effectively denies them adequate medical care, interferes with their right to privacy, undermines their right to a fair hearing at parole board hearings, and denies them access to vocational, educational and drug treatment programs as well as religious services. Additionally, the plaintiffs claim that the defendants have failed to protect Hispanic prisoners from a racially hostile environment.
Second, relevant to the motion for certification of a subclass and the cross-motions for partial summary judgment, the plaintiffs aver that the Department of Corrections' policy barring prisoners from being transferred to minimum security if they have detainers issued against them by the INS violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
The facts underlying the cross-motions for summary judgment are neither complex nor in dispute. As a matter of policy, the defendants prohibit inmates with detainers from being assigned to minimum security facilities. A detainer imposed by another jurisdiction puts Department of Corrections officials on notice that an inmate is wanted for trial or a hearing by the jurisdiction that issued the detainer. See United States v. Mauro, 436 U.S. 340, 358, 98 S. Ct. 1834, 1846, 56 L. Ed. 2d 329 (1978).
Prisoners at Lorton who are within 24 months of their parole date are generally eligible for assignment to a minimum security facility--a discretionary assignment decision that depends upon the facts of the individual inmate's case. See Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment, App. 2, at 30-33 (deposition of Mr. Edmund P. Walsh, Administrator of Case Unit Management Services for the Department of Corrections) (deposition of Nov. 2, 1994). The issuance of a detainer, however, serves as a complete bar to being assigned to a minimum security facility,
because the defendants have concluded that an inmate faced with legal action in another jurisdiction poses a risk of flight. See id. at App. 2, at 10-11 (deposition of Dec. 12, 1994) id. at App. 2, at 44-45 (deposition of Nov. 2, 1994).
The plaintiffs here are not challenging INS's decision to issue the detainers in the first instance, even though the decision would not have been made but for the plaintiffs' alienage. Nor are they claiming that the Department of Corrections has denied them their rights to contest the basis for the detainers under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers ("Agreement"), Pub. L. No. 91-538, 84 Stat. 1397-1403 (Dec. 9, 1970), codified at 18 U.S.C. app. § 2 (1994).
Instead, the Hispanic prisoner plaintiffs challenge the reasoning underlying the defendants' policy, contending that the policy denies them equal protection and due process of law in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
The cross-motions for partial summary judgment.
Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). "The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is a need for trial--whether, in other words, there are any genuine issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the "evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255. At the same time, however, Rule 56 places a burden on the nonmoving party to "go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. ...