United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
BENNY J. HAMMOND, TDCJ-CID #1513422 Plaintiff,
BRYAN COLLIER, et al, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION
ROSENTHAL, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
J. Hammond, an inmate of the Texas Department of Criminal
Justice - Correctional Institutions Division,
("TDCJ-CID") sued in November 2016, alleging civil
rights violations resulting from a denial of due process.
Hammond, representing himself and without prepayment of the
filing fee, sues Bryan Collier, Executive Director of the
TDCJ-CID; David G. Gutierrez, Chairman of the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles; and Bobby Lumpkin, Director of the
Manufacturing and Logistics Division of the TDCJ-CID.
suggests that he should be compensated in money for his good
time, in recognition of the work he does every day for free
in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. Hammond states that
Texas is one of the few states which does not pay a viable
wage for inmate labor. Instead, Texas has applied a
"good time/work time compensation plan" in lieu of
actual tangible tender. However, this is not meaningful
compensation because it cannot be used to purchase any goods
or services, nor does it shorten a prisoner's sentence.
In fact, Hammond says, good time can be removed through
various means. When a prisoner is released to parole or
mandatory supervision, he is required to sign away all of his
accrued good time or work time; this is not a voluntary
relinquishment, but a mandatory requirement imposed before an
inmate can be released. If the prisoner violates the terms of
his parole or mandatory supervision, the good time is
generally not restored.
result, Hammond states that he is being subjected to a
"payment system" designed to falsely enrich TDC J
through the use of a "false flat currency" in the
form of good time and work time. Because good time and work
time is "currency, " TDCJ is in violation of the
Constitutional prohibition against states making anything but
gold or silver a tender in payment of debts.
the purpose of the TDCJ system is to pay inmates in good time
or work time, such payment has no measurable value. Hammond
states that slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment; he
acknowledges that the Thirteenth Amendment provides an
exception "as punishment for crime whereof a person has
been duly convicted, " but states that no one in the
TDCJ system has been "sentenced to slavery or
involuntary servitude." After discussing the meaning of
the term "slavery, " Hammond states that he himself
was not sentenced to slavery or involuntary servitude, but to
"confinement and/or restitution, " and TDCJ cannot
change his pronounced sentence for its own gain.
states that inmates are routinely stripped of good time or
work time as a violation of one or more rules, but these
violations of rules are "unadjudicated and are a taking
of property." This would be more obvious if the good
time had an actual monetary value. Hammond again asserts that
it is illegal for a government entity to seize the property
of another without cause and due process.
states that the "good time/work time formula" is a
scheme to enforce compliance in a "coordinated
deception." He argues that he is subjected to
"forced labor" in violation of federal law. Hammond
states that inmates are assigned to work upon their arrival
in TDCJ. If they refuse, Hammond says, they are subjected to
increasing punishments including minor and major disciplinary
cases, deprivation of good time already earned, higher levels
of confinement, and transfer to facilities far away from the
prisoner's family. This means that the rate being
"paid" to the inmate is reduced.
states that a prisoner receiving a 10-year sentence would
accumulate flat (calendar) time, good time, and work time.
After five years of flat time plus two-and-a-half years each
of good time and work time, the inmate may be released on
mandatory supervision; however, such release is now
discretionary and some offenses do not qualify for release on
Hammond asserts that release on parole or mandatory
supervision is not "liberty" because an individual
on such release is still in the custody of the State.
Mandatory supervision has published guidelines, but parole
does not; instead, it is at the sole discretion of the Texas
Board of Pardons and Paroles. Because both mandatory
supervision and parole are discretionary, Hammond states that
there is no value earned by good time or work time credits.
Unlike money, there is nothing that can be purchased by good
time, and these credits do not shorten the term of the
discussing the fact that various inmate jobs require various
levels of skill, including truck driving, plumbing, and
electrical work, Hammond argues that TDCJ cannot have it both
ways; the prison cannot say that good time is a valuable
consideration but then say it has no value when asked to
exchange it for other valuable considerations. Inmates cannot
purchase items for the commissary or pay their medical co-pay
with good time credits.
asks that the court order TDCJ to cease and desist from
employing inmate labor without express written and voluntary
consent. He further requests that all inmates be paid for
federal court has the authority to dismiss a complaint in
which the plaintiff is representing himself if the court
determines that it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i); see Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Richardson v.
Spurlock, 260 F.3d 495, 498 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing
Siglar v. Hightower, 112 F.3d 191, 193 (5th Cir.
1997)). "A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law if
it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, such
as if the complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest
which clearly does not exist." Davis v. Scott,
157F.3d 1003, 1005 (5thCir. 1998) (quoting McCormick v.
Stalder, 105 F.3d 1059, 1061 (5th Cir. 1997)).
prisoner does not have a constitutional right to a release
before the expiration of a valid sentence. Greenholtz v.
Inmates of the Neb. Penal & Corr. Complex, 442 U.S.
1, 7 (1979). Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution does not
guarantee an inmate good-time credit for satisfactory
behavior while in prison. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418
U.S. 539, 557(1974). However, state laws may create a
constitutional expectancy of early release. Malchi v.
Thaler, 211 F.3d 953, 957 (5th Cir. 2000). In Texas, it
is well established that only inmates who are eligible for
mandatory supervision have a liberty interest in good-time
credits and a constitutional expectancy of early release.
Id. To establish a constitutional violation, Hammond
must show that he has a constitutional expectancy of early
primary issue in this case concerns whether or not Hammond
has stated the denial of a constitutionally protected liberty
interest. Prisoners are not wholly stripped of all
constitutional protections when imprisoned. Wolff,
418 U.S. at 555. A prisoner's constitutional rights are
set forth in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. However, in disciplinary hearings, prisoners are
only entitled to due process guarantees when the hearing may
result in sanctions that infringe on constitutionally
protected interests. Sandin v. Conner,515 U.S. 472,
483-4 (1995). These interests are generally limited to
sanctions that affect the quantity of time served by a
prisoner. Madison v. Parker,104 F.3d 765, 767 (5th
Cir. 1997). Due process protections do not attach to ordinary
prison disciplinary cases, but only those which serve to
lengthen the inmate's sentence or exceed ...