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Court: Ex-inmate cannot sue state

A former State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale inmate cannot continue to sue the state seeking to enjoin a policy that barred him from participation in a sexual offenders counseling program now that he has been released from custody, the U. S. 3rd Circuit Court of appeals ruled.

The former inmate, Curry Robinson, 44, of Philadelphia sued the superintendent at SCI Houtzdale and the state corrections secretary contending that the state’s policy of forcing an inmate to admit to his guilt as a prerequisite for participation in sexual offenders therapy violated his religious beliefs.

Robinson challenged the policy stating “the Bible does not permit him to confess his sins to anybody but God.”

The policy, he maintained, places a “substantial burden” on his ability to practice his religion.

Robinson filed his initial lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Johnstown.

U.S. Magistrate Lisa Pupo Lenihan recommended it be dismissed, and U.S. District Judge Kim R. Gibson agreed.

On appeal, a panel of the U.S. 3rd Circuit sent the case back to Gibson for further hearing.

The hearing was held before Lenihan and in October 2018 she again recommended dismissal, pointing out the Department of Corrections has a “compelling interest in the rehabilitation of sexual offenders” and that research showed offenders who deny allegations of sexual abuse are three times more likely to fail in treatment than those who admit even partial complicity.

She ruled that despite Robinson’s religious beliefs, the therapy requirement took precedence.

Robinson again took his lawsuit to the 3rd Circuit, but a three-judge panel that included Theodore McKee, Stephanos Bibas and Julio Fuentes last Thursday ruled the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal because Robinson had been released last December.

He had completed his sentence of 7.5 to 15 years for rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and indecent assault, crimes involving four children.

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