The plaintiff-prisoner claims that the disciplinary action against him violated not only prison policy but also the Rehabilitation Act, alleging that a medical condition impelled him to continue to a restroom rather than immediately proceeding to his cell as he was ordered to do. The Prison Litigation Reform Act required that, once plaintiff exhausted the Bureau of Prisons administrative process, he then exhaust the Department of Justice EEO process regarding his Rehabilitation Act claim.
We affirm the district court’s dismissal without prejudice to the administrative exhaustion of plaintiff’s Rehabilitation Act claim.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires exhaustion of all administrative remedies, so long as they are available.
According to plaintiff, he was never informed about the EEO process, rendering it unavailable to him. We disagree. Although the record indicates that the BOP could have been clearer in its instructions to prisoners alleging Rehabilitation Act claims, we cannot conclude that the EEO process was unavailable. Plaintiff’s unawareness of the EEO process does not rise to the level of unavailability.
A BOP program statement included a section entitled “Administrative Remedies,” stating that, in addition to the BOP’s Administrative Remedy Program (ARP), “inmates alleging violations of the Rehabilitation Act must also use additional procedures required by the [DOJ] in order to exhaust available administrative remedies.” The Program Statement also explicitly directed inmates to the “DOJ procedures . . . found at 28 C.F.R. § 39.170.” Finally, the Program Statement was publicly available.
The EEO remedy was not only generally available to all inmates, but plaintiff also could have discovered the program statement and the EEO process through reasonable effort. Indeed, plaintiff’s pro se complaint cites an order from a case in which a magistrate judge recommended that a Rehabilitation Act claim should be dismissed for failure to exhaust both the ARP and the EEO process.
Although the government cannot be expected to make inmates aware of every legal authority that might be of use, we note that it would pain BOP very little – and would save the courts considerable resources – to make clearer to inmates filing Rehabilitation Act claims that they are required to exhaust both the BOP’s grievance policies and the EEO process.
Williams v. Carvajal (Lawyers Weekly No. 001-040-23, 21 pp.) (Harvie Wilkinson, J.) No. 22-6495. Appealed from USDC at Raleigh, N.C. (Louise Flanagan, J.) Jennifer Wedekind, Daniel Siegel, Michele Delgado, Kaitlin Banner, Jacqueline Kutnik-Bauder, Ashika Verriest and Margaret Hart for appellant; Holly Paxson Pratesi, Michael Easley and Samuel Weiss for appellee. 4th Cir.