United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
CHRISTOPHER L. CHATMAN, Plaintiff,
HAROLD CLARKE, DIRECTOR, ET AL Defendants.
E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge
L. Chatman, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that excluding him from access to email in prison
violates his First Amendment rights. Upon review of the
record, the court finds that the action must be summarily
alleges the following sequence of facts related to his
claims. Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC")
officials have classified Chatman as Security Level S,
long-term segregation. He has been incarcerated in a
long-term segregation unit at Red Onion State Prison
("Red Onion") since April 7, 2016.
inmates were recently granted an opportunity to participate
in a web-based program that allows them to send and receive
secure email messages. Most inmates can receive or send such
messages from a kiosk dedicated for the purpose, with
postage-like stamps required for outgoing messages. Per the
VDOC policy on inmate correspondence, "Secure messaging
is a privilege. [O]ffenders assigned to a Special Housing
Unit will not be provided access to the kiosk to retrieve or
send their secure messages." (Compl. Ex. A at 1, ECF No.
1-1.) This policy also provides: "Offenders assigned to
long term segregation facilities will not have access to
kiosks but may access secure messaging" by
facility mailroom staff printing and delivering messages to
the offender through the facility mail." (Id.)
2016, Chatman filed a request for Red Onion mailroom staff to
have copies of his incoming messages printed out and
delivered to him, per VDOC policy. Defendant Shortridge, Red
Onion's operations manager, responded: Special Housing
Unit will not be provided access to kiosk." (Compl. 3,
ECF No. 1.) Chatman then filed a grievance on the matter. In
the Level I response, a supervisory official deemed the
grievance unfounded and wrote:
LOP 830.A establishes kiosk access as an incentive for
Security Level "S" offenders to progress in the
[Red Onion] Segregation Reduction Step-Down Program. Kiosk
privileges are earned once Security Level "S"
offenders have successfully completed the requirements of
their assigned pathway (SM or EVI), had a reduction in
Security level from Security Level "S" to Security
Level 6 and are housed in Step-Down Phase 1 or EVI Closed
pods. Due to your current Security Level "S"
assignment, you do not have access to secure messages.
(Id. Ex., at 9, ECF No. 1-1.) Chatman appealed. At
Level II, a regional administrator wrote:
The Level I response from Red Onion State Prison is
inappropriate. Procedural violations are noted. [OP] 803.1
Offender Correspondence is the governing authority.
The decision of the Level I respondent is reversed to
FOUNDED. The administrative remedy is to print out your
messages and deliver them to you. Level II is the last level
of appeal for this grievance.
(Id. Ex., at 10.) Nevertheless, Shortridge has
continued to refuse to deliver Chatman's messages to him
under Red Onion's Step-Down Procedure.
filed this § 1983 action against Shortridge, seeking
declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. He also sues
the Red Onion warden and the director of the VDOC for failing
to ensure that he can receive his secure kiosk messages as
provided by policy.
court is required to dismiss any action or claim filed by a
prisoner against a governmental entity or officer if the
court determines the action or claim is frivolous, malicious,
or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
28 U.S.C. § 1915 A(b)(1). In order to state a claim in
any federal civil action, the plaintiffs "[f]actual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level, " to one that is "plausible