7th Circuit: Prison honor program does not discriminate

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of an Indiana prisoner’s claim that he wasn’t being provided equal protection compared to prisoners who are in an inmate “honor program” because he failed to state a claim.

Terrance Flynn has been denied admission to the prison’s honor program twice, once because he did not meet the program’s age requirement, and the second because he claims the program was full, as was the waiting list. Prisoners in the program have twice as many visits, more time outside their cells and exclusive access to video games, among other perks.

The district court construed his argument as an age discrimination motion and dismissed it for failure to state a claim. Flynn dropped that argument at the 7th Circuit but still claims discrimination.

In the per curiam decision, the judges said prison administrators can treat inmates differently as long as unequal treatment is related to penological interest. The panel said there are obvious reasons to extend preferential treatment to prisoners in the honor program, and there’s no reason the program shouldn’t be able to continue.

Flynn claimed there is no valid reason to deny him the same privileges because he has demonstrated the same behavior as the prisoners in the program and meets the criteria for admission, but the panel said “there are many rational reasons for requiring an application to evaluate the prisoner before awarding benefits.”

The case is Terrance Flynn v. Marion Thatcher and Ron Neal, 15-2458.  

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