United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
Chris A. Ramos,
William Wrenn, New Hampshire Department of Corrections Commissioner, et al..
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
ANDREA K. JOHNSTONE, Magistrate Judge.
Before the court is the complaint (doc. no. 1) filed by New Hampshire State Prison ("NHSP") inmate Chris A. Ramos. The matter is here for preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and LR 4.3(d)(1).
For the purposes of this court's preliminary review of pro se pleadings under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and LR 4.3(d)(1), the court construes the pleading liberally in determining whether the inmate has stated a claim. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Disregarding any legal conclusions, the court considers whether the factual content in the pleading and inferences reasonably drawn therefrom, taken as true, state a claim to relief. Hernandez-Cuevas v. Taylor, 723 F.3d 91, 102-03 (1st Cir. 2013) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).
In August 2012, Ramos was sentenced to two and one half to five years in prison for a sex offense. Ramos asserts that the sentencing court specifically ordered that Ramos must complete the prison's sex offender treatment program before he could be paroled. Ramos asserts that in December 2012, defendant Hatala evaluated Ramos's needs and risks for sex offender treatment. Ramos alleges that Hatala said that Ramos was not a risk for recidivism, and that he would be wait-listed for the sex offender treatment program. Hatala assured Ramos that there would be plenty of time for Ramos to complete the sex offender treatment program before his minimum parole date.
As Ramos's minimum parole date in November 2014 neared, Ramos submitted multiple inmate request slips to defendants requesting admission to the program. Ramos received no response to most of those requests. Ramos alleges that his case manager, defendant Ayers, recommended that Ramos reschedule his initial parole hearing because of the delay in Ramos's admission to the program. Less than a month before Ramos's minimum parole date, Ramos was moved to the "program pod, " but as Ramos had already rescheduled his initial parole hearing, Ramos believes that he had already lost the opportunity for parole before his sentence maximum date. Ramos asserts claims of violations of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause and the Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, relating to these incidents and the impact on his mental health and emotional well-being, resulting from the delayed admission to the sex offender treatment program, the lost opportunity for parole, and the lack of responses to his inmate request slips.
I. Due Process
Due process requirements apply only to the deprivation of interests in life, liberty, or property. See Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 332 (1976) (procedural due process); Gonzalez-Fuentes v. Molina, 607 F.3d 864, 880 n.13 (1st Cir. 2010) (executive action does "not infringe substantive due process unless it also deprives an individual of a protected interest in life, liberty, or property'" (citation omitted)). A convicted person has no constitutional right to or liberty interest in conditional release from incarceration, on parole or otherwise, "before the expiration of [his] valid sentence.'" See González- Fuentes, 607 F.3d at 886 (quoting Greenholtz v. Inmates of Neb. Penal & Corr. Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 7 (1979)). A right to parole under the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause exists only if state law creates that right. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483-84 (1995); Hamm v. Latessa, 72 F.3d 947, 954-55 (1st Cir. 1995). New Hampshire has not created a liberty interest in the opportunity for parole. See Dupont v. N.H. Adult Parole Bd., No. 11-cv-156-SM, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150902, at *10, 2011 WL 6934778 (D.N.H. Dec. 19, 2011), report and recommendation approved by No. 11-cv-156-SM, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15085, at *1, 2012 WL 405505 (D.N.H. Feb. 8, 2012). Ramos's loss of an opportunity for conditional release before his sentence maximum date, because of a delay in admitting him to the sex offender treatment program, does not implicate the Due Process Clause.
Ramos asserts that the sentencing judge's order conditioning his parole eligibility on his completion of the sex offender treatment program puts Ramos is a different position than other inmates with respect to his due process rights. Ramos further asserts that the delay in admitting him to the sex offender treatment violated NHSP policies, specifically, NHSP Policy and Procedure Directive ("PPD") 6.35.
Inmates have no federal constitutional right to participate in rehabilitative programs while incarcerated, Fiallo v. De Batista, 666 F.2d 729, 730 (1st Cir. 1981), and, accordingly, a delay in providing such programming that could result in a lost opportunity for parole does not implicate the Due Process Clause where the inmate is not otherwise entitled to receive such programming. Nothing in the terms of Ramos's sentence, state law, or PPD 6.35 grants Ramos a right or protected liberty interest in being admitted to sex offender treatment on or before a certain date, or in having the opportunity to fulfill all preconditions to parole eligibility prior to a certain date. Accordingly, Ramos's due process claims should be dismissed.
II. Eighth Amendment
Ramos asserts that health care providers contracting with the NHSP to provide mental health services did not adhere to professional standards in neglecting Ramos's inmate request slips and in delaying his access to sex offender treatment, and that defendants subjected him to mental distress and emotional harm by preventing his timely access to the sex offender treatment program, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. To assert an Eighth Amendment claim in these circumstances, plaintiff must establish that the deprivation was, objectively, "sufficiently serious, " and must also show that, "[s]ubjectively, ... prison officials possessed a sufficiently culpable state of mind, namely one of deliberate indifference' to an inmate's health or safety." Perry v. Roy, 782 F.3d 73, 78 (1st Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Cf. Penn v. Escorsio, 764 F.3d 102, 110 (1st Cir. 2014) (to ...