Montanez v. Sec'y PA Dep't of Corrs., No. 13-1380 (3d Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) maintains bank accounts, which inmates use to purchase items such as soap, deodorant, toothpaste, and over-the-counter medications. Inmates are also responsible for the costs some medical and legal services. Inmates earn wages, capped at 51 cents an hour, for work conducted for the prison, or get gifts from friends and family. In 1998, the legislature authorized the DOC to deduct from inmate accounts to collect “restitution or any other court-ordered obligation or costs.” The DOC promulgated a policy that each DOC facility makes “payments of 20% of the inmate’s account balance and monthly income for restitution, reparation, fees, costs, fines, and/or penalties associated with the criminal proceedings … provided that the inmate has a balance that exceeds $10.00.” DOC authority to make deductions is automatically triggered when it receives a sentencing order that includes a monetary portion. There is no requirement that the order provide for automatic deduction. DOC does not provide inmates with any hearing or other opportunity to be heard before deductions commence. Inmates filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of procedural due process rights. After post-remand discovery, the district court granted defendants summary judgment, finding some claims time-barred, that one inmate had received all process he was due under the Constitution, and that corrections officials were entitled to qualified immunity from claims for monetary damages. The Third Circuit reversed as to the due process claims noting disputes of fact regarding notice and because the inmate never had any opportunity to be heard prior to deprivation, but otherwise affirmed.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on October 15, 2014.