On December 12, 2006, Plaintiff, an inmate at the Harnett Correctional Institution, filed a civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division. Plaintiff alleged that his rights pursuant to the First ...
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On December 12, 2006, Plaintiff, an inmate at the Harnett Correctional Institution, filed a civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division. Plaintiff alleged that his rights pursuant to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Due Process Clause to the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution were violated because he was denied several book and magazine publications. Later, Plaintiff was represented by public interest attorneys from North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services ("NCPLS") and an amended complaint on behalf of Plaintiff was filed on May 11, 2007.
In his amended complaint, Plaintiff names the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Corrections ("DOC"), the Director of North Carolina Prisons, and the Administrator of Harnett Correctional Institution as Defendants. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights pursuant to the First Amendment when they arbitrarily and capriciously denied him access to publications without reference to legitimate penological interests. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants violated his rights under the Due Process Clause when they failed to provide him the opportunity to appeal rejected publications to the Publications Review Committee. Plaintiff asks the court for declaratory and injunctive relief for the violation of his rights. Chief Judge Louise W. Flanagan is assigned to the case.
On October 26, 2007, another set of plaintiffs filed essentially the same claims as those alleged in this action in a separate action captioned Allen v. Beck, No. 5:07-CT-3145-H (E.D.N.C. Oct. 26, 2007). The parties jointly requested the court to consolidate these two actions and on May 30, 2008, the court approved the consolidation and designated Urbaniak v. Stanley as the lead case. On the same day, the court also certified a class consisting of all present and future inmates of the DOC who seek to receive publications through the mail.
After extensive but informal discovery, the parties reached a proposed consent decree and filed a stipulated settlement agreement. The agreement is closely tied to enforcement of Defendants' revised publication policy. The policy governs the treatment of publications that inmates receive in the mail and provides that DOC must explain reasons for disallowing publications and give time limits for appeals.
On March 29, 2010, the court preliminarily approved the settlement agreement. Thereafter, the parties provided the class with notice of the settlement. The class members were given until July 13, 2010, to submit objections. The court received sixty-nine (69) written objections to the settlement agreement, most of which challenged enforcement or certain provisions of the policy.
At hearing, the court inquired into and the parties addressed these objections. In light of the parties' continued diligence and thoughtful reflection upon the policies and procedures presented to the court at the July 27, 2010 hearing, the court deemed it appropriate to allow the parties additional time to file a supplement addressing the circumstances surrounding their negotiations and the amended policy. On August 23, 2010, the parties filed a joint supplement with an amended policy attached. The amended policy revises the size limit provision and allows inmates to receive softbound publications and hardbound religious and legal publications that are larger than 8.5 x 11 inches and more than two inches thick; it also allows inmates to retain these religious and legal materials in most cases should their status change. The amended policy includes a new provision which directs that an inmate's publications be stored when an inmate experiences a change in custody status. Additionally, the amended policy permits inmates to send removed CDs or DVDs to an alternate address at their own expense.
The court reconvened the fairness hearing on August 27, 2010 and approved the Consent Decree.Xin Chen - 07/24/2011