United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON JUDGE
Bryant, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed this habeas corpus
petition attempting to challenge the prison disciplinary
hearing in case IYC 16-11-100 held at the Plainfield
Correctional Facility on December 5, 2016, where he was found
guilty of assaulting and battering a correctional officer in
violation of Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) policy
A-117. ECF 2 at 1, 2-1 at 2. As a result, he was sanctioned
with the loss of 57 days earned credit time. Id. The
Warden has moved to dismiss the petition arguing that Bryant
has not exhausted his administrative remedies. ECF 13, 14.
Bryant has responded to the motion. ECF 15, 18. Thus the
motion is fully briefed.
of exhaustion that apply to federal review of criminal
convictions also apply to review of prison disciplinary
proceedings. Eads v. Hanks, 280 F.3d 728, 729 (7th
Cir. 2002); Markham v. Clark, 978 F.2d 993, 994-95
(7th Cir. 1992). Before seeking federal habeas relief, a
prisoner must take all administrative appeals, and must raise
in those appeals any issue on which he seeks federal review.
Eads, 280 F.3d at 729. In other words, exhaustion
requires that a prisoner present each claim he seeks to raise
in his habeas petition at each level of the prison
disciplinary process. Moffat v. Broyles, 288 F.3d
978, 981-82 (7th Cir. 2002).
Indiana Department of Correction has established a two-step
administrative appeals process. The Disciplinary Code for
Adult Offenders, Policy & Administrative Procedure No.
02-04-101, §§ X(A)-(D) (effective June 1, 2015).
As to the first step, an offender is required to file a
facility-level appeal within 15 days of the date of the
disciplinary hearing or receipt of the disciplinary hearing
report. Id. If the facility head denies the first
appeal, the offender must then file a second-level
appeal-within 15 days of the facility-level response-with the
final reviewing authority. Id. In the second-level
appeal, the offender may only assert those claims that were
raised in the first-level appeal. Id.
petition, Bryant presents one ground which he claims entitles
him to habeas corpus relief. ECF 2 at 2. In that ground, he
argues that prison officials did not properly consider his
mental health conditions during the disciplinary proceedings
in his case. Id. However, in his petition, Bryant
himself acknowledges that he did not raise this issue in
either his facility-level appeal with the facility head or
his second-level appeal with the final reviewing authority.
Id. In this regard, he states: “This matter
was not raised in the administrative appeal due to [his]
mental condition to recognize and request someone to assist
him while in the segregation unit.” Id. In
other words, Bryant admits he failed to exhaust his
administrative appeals as to the single ground he now raises
in his petition.
opposition to the motion to dismiss, Bryant claims he
properly raised his mental health conditions in his
administrative appeals, but his allegations are not supported
by the record in this case. See ECF 15, 18. For
example, he states he raised his mental health conditions in
the first-level appeal he filed on December 5, 2016-the day
of his hearing-but the hearing officer never processed his
appeal. ECF 15 at 2, 18 at 2. He explains he then filed a
grievance against the hearing officer because he failed to
give his appeal documents to the administrative assistant for
processing. ECF 13-2 at 10-11, 15 at 2-3. But even if he is
correct that the hearing officer did not process his appeal
documents, Bryant appears to have filed another first
level-appeal. ECF 13-2 at 4-5. However, there is no mention
in Bryant's handwritten appeal documents that he suffers
from any mental health conditions. See ECF 13-1 at
1-3, 13-2 at 4-5. The court has thoroughly reviewed the
documents contained in the record and can find no evidence to
support Bryant's claim that he included his mental health
conditions in any of his appeal documents. Accordingly,
because Bryant did not raise the issue of his mental health
conditions in his administrative appeals, it is procedurally
procedural default can be excused and the court can consider
a claim that was not properly raised if a petitioner can
demonstrate “cause and prejudice.” Weddington
v. Zatecky, 721 F.3d 456, 465 (7th Cir. 2013). Cause is
“some external objective factor, such as interference
by officials or unavailability of the factual or legal basis
for a claim, which impeded compliance with the state's
procedural rule.” Barksdale v. Lane, 957 F.2d
379, 385 (7th Cir. 1992). The only argument Bryant presents
to overcome his failure to exhaust is that his mental health
condition itself prevented him from properly working with his
lay advocate to raise his mental health conditions in his
administrative appeals and prepare his defense. ECF 2 at 2.
However, mental illness is not an external objective factor
which meets the requirement of “cause” in the
cause and prejudice analysis. Harris v. McAdory, 334
F.3d 665, 669 (7th Cir. 2003) (holding that mental
retardation, mental deficiencies, and mental illness do not
demonstrate “cause” to excuse procedural
default); Cawley v. DeTella, 71 F.3d 691, 696 (7th
Cir. 1995). Therefore, Bryant's alleged mental health
conditions do not serve as a basis by which the court can
excuse his procedural default.
final matter, to the extent Bryant claims in his petition
that his due process rights were violated because IDOC
officials violated prison policy by failing to consider his
mental health conditions, that contention fails. ECF 2 at 2.
Here, Bryant relies on a provision of IDOC policy that states
a mental health professional should have been consulted to
determine if his conduct stemmed from his alleged conditions.
ECF 18 at 3-4, 10. However, habeas corpus relief can only be
granted for “violation[s] of the Constitution or law or
treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. §
2254(a). Failure to follow prison policy is not a
constitutional violation. Estelle v. McGuire, 502
U.S. 62, 68 (1991) (“state-law violations provide no
basis for federal habeas relief”) and Keller v.
Donahue, 271 Fed.Appx. 531, 532 (7th Cir. 2008)
(inmate's claim that prison did not follow internal
policies had “no bearing on his right to due
process”). Therefore, the sole ground Bryant raised in
his petition cannot be remedied in a habeas corpus petition.
warden's motion to dismiss (ECF 13) is GRANTED and Elmer
Bryant's petition (ECF 2) is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
motion to suppress (ECF 11), motion to appoint counsel (ECF
16), and motion for the court to request the video footage of
the incident (ECF 17) are DENIED AS MOOT.
Clerk is DIRECTED ...