The head inmate law clerk at an Indiana correctional facility is entitled to the 30 days of good-time credit that the prison revoked after finding he used the library’s computers without authorization. But the inmate was just following orders from prison library staff, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals pointed out.
As head inmate law clerk at the Putnamville Correctional Facility, Eric Grandberry assisted other inmates who needed support with problems arising from their custody. One library staff member asked him to download and fill out a petition to stop child support; another staff employee asked him to get and fill out forms that her daughter could use to apply for a divorce. Grandberry fulfilled those requests.
Prison officials accused him of unauthorized alteration, use or possession of any electronic device, moved him to solitary confinement and revoked 30 days of his good-time credits.
The 7th Circuit noted that the record does not contain evidence that Grandberry used the library’s computers without authorization. The Indiana Department of Correction maintains that Grandberry should not have followed the staff’s directives, which the judges found surprising.
“Prisons regularly contend that prisoners must obey all orders. … It would ill serve the interests of the Indiana Department of Correction to tell prisoners (as the Department’s appellate brief insists) that they are not only entitled but also required to disobey orders that should not have been given. In such a regime prisoners undoubtedly would become creative in finding justifications for disobedience. Far better to have a norm of compliance; then staff members, rather than the prisoners, get to decide in the first instance which orders are proper and must be followed. If the library staff gave Grandberry improper orders, the penalty should fall on the staff members,” Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote in Eric Grandberry v. Brian Smith, superintendent, Plainfield Correctional Facility, 12-2081.
The 7th Circuit remanded with instructions to issue a writ of habeas corpus restoring the good-time credits.