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United States District Court, N.D. California

April 9, 2004.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: VAUGHN WALKER, District Judge


Saul Barrios Perez, a prisoner at Salinas Valley State Prison ("SVSP"), has filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming unconstitutional compulsion. Perez alleges that after he refused to be interrogated on April 4, 2003 in connection with an ongoing prison criminal investigation, prison officials confined him to his cell and deprived him of privileges such as "yard privilege." Perez alleges that it wasn't until approximately April 11, 2003, after he filed a grievance and was interviewed by Sergeant Van Huss, that he "was allowed to resume regular program."

Plaintiff seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915.


 A. Standard of Review

  Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted," or "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. § 1915A(b). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed, however. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir 1990).

  To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

 B. Legal Claims

  The Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination does not terminate at the jailhouse door, but the fact of a valid conviction and the ensuing restrictions on liberty are essential to the Fifth Amendment analysis. McKune v. Lile, 122 S Ct 2017, 2026 (2002). A broad range of choices that might infringe constitutional rights in free society fall within the expected conditions of confinement of those who have suffered a lawful conviction. Id. The compulsion inquiry accordingly must consider the significant restraints already inherent in prison life and the state's own vital interests in rehabilitation goals and procedures within the prison system. Id. at 2027.

  Determining what constitutes unconstitutional compulsion involves a question of judgment: courts must decide whether the consequences of an inmate's choice to remain silent are closer to the physical torture against which the Constitution clearly protects, or the de minimis harms against which it does not. Even if a consequence follows directly from a person's silence, one cannot answer the question whether the person has been compelled to incriminate himself without first considering the severity of the consequences. Id. at 2028-30. In McKune, the Court held that the Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995), framework for analyzing whether a prisoner's liberty interest has been curtailed in violation of due process is a reasonable means of assessing whether the response of prison administrators to correctional rehabilitative necessities are so out of the ordinary that one could sensibly say they rise to the level of unconstitutional compulsion. McKune, 122 S Ct at 2029. Accordingly, challenged prison conditions cannot give rise to a due process, or compulsion, violation unless those conditions constitute "atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin, 515 US at 484.

  Confining an inmate to his cell (along with the corresponding loss of privileges such as yard access) for an extended or indefinite period of time may well impose "atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." But Perez's confinement and corresponding loss of privileges for a period of no longer than eight days (April 4, 2003 to April 11, 2003, when Perez was "allowed to resume regular program"), is not enough to satisfy the Sandin test. See id (placement in disciplinary segregation for 30 days did not constitute atypical and significant hardship); Mujahid v. Meyer, 59 F.3d 931, 932 (9th Cir 1995) (no protected liberty interest when inmate placed in disciplinary segregation for only 14 days). Perez does not state an unconstitutional compulsion claim. Accord McKune, 122 S Ct at 2027-30 (finding no unconstitutional compulsion where an inmate's participation in a sex offender treatment program was conditioned upon his admission of past criminal activity without the benefit of use immunity, and his refusal to do so resulted in his demotion to a higher custody status, the loss of amenities such as a personal television, less access to prison organizations and the gym area, a reduction in certain pay opportunities and canteen privileges, and restricted visitation rights); Minnesota v. Murphy, 465 U.S. 420 (1984) (no Fifth Amendment compulsion where defendant faced being returned to prison for 16 months if he did not answer probation officer's questions about other crimes); Baxter v. Palmigiano, 425 U.S. 308 (1976) (no Fifth Amendment compulsion where inmate faced 30 days in punitive segregation and downgrade of prison classification status if he remained silent at prison disciplinary hearing).


  For the foregoing reasons, Perez's request to proceed in forma pauperis (docs # 3 & 4) is DENIED and the complaint is DISMISSED.

  The clerk shall close the file and terminate all pending motions as moot. No fee is due.



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