Submitted: April 14, 2016
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Missouri - Cape Girardeau
COLLOTON and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges, and MOODY,  District
COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.
Yang, an inmate in Missouri, appeals the dismissal of his
lawsuit against several officials of the Missouri Department
of Corrections under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Yang alleged that
the officials violated his constitutional rights when they
censored his Chinese-language mail and denied him the ability
to place telephone calls to China. The district
court granted summary judgment for the
officials, and we affirm.
was born in China in 1940. He moved to the United States in
1984 and is now a citizen. Yang has been incarcerated in the
Missouri Department of Corrections since 2005, when he was
sentenced to twenty years in prison for second-degree murder.
first language is Mandarin Chinese. He can speak, read, and
write English, although he claims he cannot fully express
himself in English. Yang's relatives remain in China, and
none of them understands English.
was first imprisoned, the Department allowed Yang to
correspond in Chinese. But from late 2007 to some point in
2008, and again after January 2011, Department officials
refused for security reasons to deliver Yang's incoming
and outgoing mail written in Chinese.
officials restricted Yang's Chinese-language mail
pursuant to the Department's censorship and mail
policies. Those policies provide for censoring of mail that
poses a threat to the security of the penal institution.
Items written in a "language that staff are unable to
interpret with current available resources" are said to
present such a threat. Thus, all mail in a foreign language
is sent to a committee that determines whether an
employee-interpreter is available by reviewing the
Department's "institutional translator list."
If an employee can interpret the mail, it is sent to that
employee for review and screening before delivery to its
intended destination. But if no employee on the list can
interpret the mail, the committee censors the mail and
informs the inmate of the basis for its decision.
times relevant to this litigation, no Department employees
could read or translate Mandarin Chinese. Because several
employees knew Spanish, however, the Department screened
other inmates' Spanish-language mail during the periods
when Yang's Chinese-language mail was rejected.
twice complained about the treatment of his mail through the
Department's grievance process. He explained that his
family was unable to understand English, requested permission
to send and receive Chinese-language mail, and demanded that
the Department provide an interpreter who could review the
mail and clear it for delivery. Department officials denied
also sought to place telephone calls to his family and
friends in China. Before February 2012, the Department
prohibited all international calls. After that date,
international calling was permitted, but Yang temporarily
remained unable to call people in China due to technical
difficulties. The Department's international-calling
provider resolved those issues, and Yang may now call his
family in China.
Throughout his time in prison, Yang has been able to place
domestic telephone calls and to send and receive
English-language mail. Yang mailed a couple letters in
English to his family in China. Yang also attempted to
contact a few acquaintances in the United States by mail and
telephone. The recipients of Yang's communications,
including family members in China, neither responded to his
letters nor accepted his phone calls.
2012, Yang, proceeding pro se, brought a § 1983
action against the Department and several officials. Yang
alleged that the defendants had infringed his rights under
the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Due
Process Clause by denying him the ability to correspond in
Chinese or to place telephone calls to his family and friends
in China. ...