OPINION ISSUED DECEMBER 4, 2000
DAVID LEE WELCH
DIVISION OF CORRECTIONS
Claimant appeared pro se.
Joy M. Bolling, Assistant Attorney General, for respondent.
Claimant, currently an inmate at the Huttonsville Correctional
Center, brought this action for reimbursement for a computer
correspondence course that he was not allowed to complete while in
the custody of respondent at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex.
Mount Olive Correctional Complex is a facility operated by
respondent in Fayette County. The Court is of the opinion to deny
this claim for the reasons more fully set forth below.
On January 2, 1997, Mr. Welch enrolled in a computer
correspondence course taught by NRI Schools. Clearance for Mr.
Welch's participation in the correspondence course was given by
Director of Education at the Complex, Frances F. Warsing, on
January 8, 1997. The cost of the correspondence course was
$3,446.00. All of the course materials were to be received through
Ms. Warsing. The course materials were stored in the Industries
Building and Mr. Welch was required to complete his course work at
that location. In order to further his studies, Mr. Welch enrolled
in a computer book club, but respondent denied him access to the
ordered books as they were not necessary for his course work. Mr.
Welch filed a grievance for the value of the ordered books.
Respondent denied the grievance pursuant to policy directive
670.00, by which Mr. Welch did not have authorization to enter into
a contract with the computer book club. Ms. Warsing had determined
that the computer correspondence course would meet Mr. Welch's
educational needs. An employee of respondent, Dale Howe, testified
that he informed claimant of the policy that the computer was to be
used for educational purposes only.
On June 4, 1999, Mr. Welch's computer and course related
material were seized in the automotive classroom by Correctional
Officer II, Kenny Bowles. The computer and materials were placed
in the communications office storage area. On August 2, 1999, Mr.
Welch was required to mail the computer and materials to his
mother's residence. In a memorandum dated August 17, 1999, Warden
Howard Painter informed Mr. Welch that by Order of the Commissioner
no computers were allowed in inmate cells, which included his
computer. Policy Directive 639.01, effective August 18, 1997,
established the policy for dealing with inmate ownership of
personal computers. This directive superceded all other
directives. Subsequently, Warden George Trent informed the Mount
Olive Correctional Complex inmate population by memorandum that each inmate had until November 30, 1997, to remove their personal
computers from the facility. Warden Trent's memorandum further
stated that any information on the computer which involved an
active legal case in which an inmate is a named party, that
information would be printed out for that inmate. Mr. Welch filed
a grievance on August 20, 1999, requesting that the policy be
waived for his computer since it was located in the education
department, but the grievance was denied.
On August 23, 1999, Mr. Welch was charged with violating
Disciplinary Rule Number 2.11 regarding contraband. Officer Bowles
found one roll of solder, six sheets of sticker paper, and eight
sheets of laminating paper while inspecting claimant's seized
property. Mr. Welch was able to produce a receipt from his inmate
trustee account that established an inmate order for solder from
Radio Shack. In a memorandum dated August 24, 1999, Warden Howard
Painter informed Mr. Welch that he had been informed by Magistrate
Joseph B. Coy that Mr. Welch had been using the computer for
personal matters and that the aforementioned Order prohibited use
of the computer for personal matters. A written statement by Mr.
Welch acknowledges that he used his computer for such matters. Mr.
Welch was found guilty on August 25, 1999, and received a
forty-five day loss of contact visitation privilege effective
August 25, 1999, to October 9, 1999. Mr. Welch appealed this
decision, but the decision was affirmed by Warden Painter.
Officer Bowles, in a memorandum dated October 11, 1999,
informed Mr. Welch that he had until October 31, 1999, to submit to
him an address and mail voucher for the items stored in the
industrial tool room. Mr. Welch complied on October 15, 1999. In
a letter dated October 18, 1999, Warden Painter informed NRI
Schools that Mr. Welch was no longer allowed to participate in the
correspondence course because of the establishment of new policies
and Mr. Welch's failure to comply with those policies. Warden
Painter also requested that Mr. Welch be released from his
contractual obligation to continue to pay for the course. Mr.
Welch appealed the ultimatum to mail out the seized contraband
property, but it was denied by Commissioner Paul Kirby on October
22, 1999. Currently, Mr. Welch's mother is in possession of all of
the seized property
The cost of the computer correspondence course was $3,446.00,
but there was a balance of $980.00 after the computer and course
materials were confiscated. The P233MMX computer, which was
purchased through the course, had a value of $1,100.00. After the
confiscation of the computer and course materials, three of the
course lessons did not require the use of the computer. Mr. Welch
also asserts damages in the amount of $1,108.39 for course related
items that were used as part of the course. Thereafter, Mr.
Welch's mother paid the contract balance of $980.00.
The Court, having reviewed all of the facts and circumstances
in this claim, has determined that the respondent has established
that the claimant used his computer for personal letters which was a violation of respondent's regulations. Therefore, respondent was
within its rights to require that the claimant dispose of the
computer as he desired. He, in fact, had the computer mailed to
his mother who still has the computer in safe keeping for him when
he is released from Huttonsville Correctional Center. Further,
the Court is of the opinion that claimant is not entitled to
recover any or all of the tuition which he paid for his computer
course. This loss should have been anticipated when he used the
computer in violation of respondent's regulations.
Accordingly, the Court is of the opinion to and does deny this