Legal Memorandum: Inmates’ right to the grievance process under the Constitution

Issue: Under Illinois law, constitutionally, what rights do inmates have to a grievance process?

Area of Law: Constitutional Law & Civil Rights, Constitutional Law and Civil Rights
Keywords: ; Constitutional Right; Grievance; Inmate; Prison Grievance Procedures; DOC; Corrections Code
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: 715 N.E.2d 719; 635 F.3d 950; 966 N.E.2d 1233; 739 N.E.2d 897; 842 N.E.2d 1230; 259 F.3d 641; 848 N.E.2d 1015; 985 N.E.2d 1037
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2016

Inmates have no constitutional right to a grievance process. See Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 953 (7th Cir. 2011) (stating prison grievance procedures are not required by the first amendment and do not create interests protected by the due-process clause); Massey v. Helman, 259 F.3d 641, 647 (7th Cir. 2001) (stating state-created inmate grievance procedures do not give rise to liberty interests protected by the due-process clause). It is well settled DOC’s regulations, including those found in the Illinois Administrative Code (Administrative Code), "were never intended to confer rights on inmates or serve as a basis for constitutional claims." (Emphasis in original.) Ashley v. Snyder, 316 Ill.App.3d 1252, 1258, 739 N.E.2d 897, 902 (2000); see also Montes v. Taylor, 2013 IL App. (4th) 120082, ¶ 20, 985 N.E.2d 1037; Knox v. Godinez, 2012 IL App. (4th) 110325, ¶ 22, 966 N.E.2d 1233. "Instead, Illinois DOC regulations, as well as the [Corrections Code], were designed to provide guidance to prison officials in the administration of prisons." Ashley, 316 Ill.App.3d at 1258, 739 N.E.2d at 902. Moreover, "Illinois law creates no more rights for inmates than those which are constitutionally required." (Emphasis in original.) Ashley, 316 Ill.App.3d at 1258, 739 N.E.2d at 902.

It has been argued that section 3-8-8(c) of the Corrections Code "create a duty" for the Director of DOC to allow inmates to "file" grievances directly with the Director.  It is also argued that the regulations require him to follow the grievance […]

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