United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E. D
September 3, 1982
WILLIE WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
MICHAEL LANE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Willie Williams ("Williams"), an inmate of Stateville
Correctional Center ("Stateville"), brings this class
action*fn1 challenging the constitutional validity of
conditions in Stateville's Protective Custody Unit (the
"Unit"). Defendants are present and former (1) state officials
with overall administrative responsibility for Stateville and
(2) Stateville Wardens and Assistant Wardens. Defendants have
moved to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a cause of
action and on related grounds. Their motion is denied except as
to Complaint ¶ 33.
On December 15, 1976 the Illinois Department of Corrections
adopted Administrative Regulation 808 ("A.R. 808"), which
provides for the creation of a Unit in each Illinois
maximum-security prison. Each Unit is intended to house
residents who request protective custody because their safety
security are threatened in the general prison population. Such
status is accorded only upon a finding by prison authorities
that it is justified for the requested purpose, and is subject
to periodic review by the authorities.
A.R. 808 requires that the Unit be a separate facility to keep
contact between Unit residents and the rest of the prison
population to a minimum. It also provides, "Housing and
programmatic accommodations shall be comparable to those
provided for the general population."
Stateville's Unit was formerly located in a cellhouse used
exclusively for protective custody purposes. In January 1979
the Unit was moved to Cellhouse B, several galleries of which
are used to house disciplinary segregation and general
population prisoners. Assignment to the Unit is often for
periods in excess of six months; in Williams' case it has
continued for more than three years.
Claims and Responses
Williams states that both as a result and as a condition of
their protective custody status, he and other class members are
(1) "regular and reasonable" access to religious programs and
(2) "regular and reasonable" access to the law library and
thus the courts;
(3) food and food services comparable to those provided the
(4) regular access to showers, cleaning materials to clean
their cells and regular laundry services;
(5) a minimum of one hour per day of outdoor recreation and
any other opportunity to exercise outside their cells;
(6) access to education programs comparable to those provided
to the general prison population;
(7) access to the general library and hobby crafts;
(8) opportunity to work or participate in vocational programs
and thus to earn wages or otherwise engage in productive or
(9) protection from contact with the general prison and
disciplinary segregation populations.
Williams asserts those denials violate several constitutional
: the Eighth Amendment (implicated by the
totality of Unit conditions); the First Amendment (through
denial of religious access); the "fundamental constitutional
right of access to the courts"; the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment (through deprivation of the liberty
interests established by A.R. 808); and the Equal Protection
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as well (by failure to
provide conditions comparable to those furnished the general
prison population). Williams also claims violation of A.R. 808
Defendants move to dismiss based on three general arguments:
1. Williams has failed to state a constitutionally-based
cause of action in various respects.
2. Williams fails to allege the requisite degree of personal
involvement on defendants' part.
3. Conditions in the Unit have been previously litigated and
are subject to a consent decree.
Only the first of those arguments raises serious questions, so
its several branches will be treated first and at some length.
Eighth Amendment Claims
Because the parties have focused most of their constitutional
discussion on the Eighth Amendment, this opinion will address
that subject at the outset. As will become apparent, there can
be no real dispute on the controlling principles of substantive
law. What is really at work here is a conflict in pleading
philosophies — a battle that defendants, out of tune with Rule
8(a), must lose.
In reliance on Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 345-50, 101
S.Ct. 2392, 2398-2401, 69 L.Ed.2d 59 (1981), Madyun v.
Thompson, 657 F.2d 868, 874 (7th Cir. 1981) teaches "the
essence of an Eighth Amendment violation consists of the
totality of the conditions of confinement." At the same time
Madyun, id. at 874 n.10 tells us Rhodes may not be read to
"allow a number of otherwise unquestionably constitutional
conditions to become unconstitutional by their aggregation."
Rhodes itself, 452 U.S. at 347, 101 S.Ct. at 2399, stated the
general standard for judging whether prison conditions
constitute "cruel and unusual punishment" proscribed by the
Eighth Amendment: They "must not involve the wanton and
unnecessary infliction of pain, nor may they be grossly
disproportionate to the severity of the crime warranting
imprisonment." Then Madyun, 657 F.2d at 874, prescribed a
more precise test for the present kind of case: Prisoners are
"entitled to an environment that does not threaten their mental
and physical well-being." See also Battle v. Anderson,
564 F.2d 388, 403 (10th Cir. 1977).
Williams has passed that test, at least in pleading terms, and
only pleading is at issue today. After alleging the various
conditions complained of, which constitute the "environment"
for Unit inmates, the Complaint goes on to allege the effect of
those conditions on such inmates (¶ 41):
They have also suffered, are suffering and, unless defendants
are enjoined, will continue to suffer severe mental and
emotional pain, humiliation and degradation.
"Totality of conditions of confinement" necessarily implicates
questions of degree — fact questions — that cannot be
foreclosed at the threshold pleading stage. So long as all the
matters complained of are not obviously incapable of rising to
Eighth Amendment levels, familiar principles of Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 101, 2 L.Ed.2d 80
(1957) mandate denial of defendants' motion.*fn4
First Amendment Claim
Complaint ¶ 25 alleges plaintiffs "are being and . . . will
continue to be denied regular and reasonable access to
religious programs and to the chapel and have thus been denied
the means to exercise their religious beliefs." That claim too
is constitutionally protected, Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319,
322 n. 2, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 1081 n. 2, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 (1972).
Essentially defendants urge in response that any restrictions
imposed are reasonable exercises of their powers to administer
Stateville. That may of course ultimately prove to be the case.
But the key words in the last sentence are "ultimately" and
"prove": Because proof necessarily involves a determination of
fact, it cannot be forestalled by a pleading motion.*fn5
Access to the Courts
Law library access has consistently been held a
constitutionally protected right of prisoners, linked to the
"fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts,"
Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 97 S.Ct. 1491, 52 L.Ed.2d 72
(1977). Though Bounds did not precisely identify the source
of that right in the Constitution, this Court is bound to
adhere to its principles and uphold that aspect of the
Complaint against attack.
Equal Protection Claims
Durso v. Rowe, 579 F.2d 1365,1371-72 (7th Cir. 1978)
insulates the Complaint's
claims of unequal treatment against dismissal. Durso teaches
a prisoner's complaint based upon purposeful distinctions among
inmates — more than "mere inconsistency in prison management" —
states a prima facie Equal Protection Clause claim:
The lack of a fundamental constitutional right or the absence
of a suspect class merely affects the court's standard of
review; it does not destroy the cause of action.
Thus to the extent the Complaint asserts treatment for
prisoners in the Unit unequal to that afforded prisoners in the
general population (and see n.4), it properly invokes the Equal
This decision saves pro tanto all the claims adverted to in n.4
as well as those literally stated in unequal treatment terms.
It remains to be seen, of course, whether those claims can in
fact survive a factual scrutiny under the applicable standard
A.R. 808 Claims
Two independent theories preserve the Complaint's claims of
violation of A.R. 808, which mandates that defendants provide
"[h]ousing and programmatic accommodations . . . comparable to
those provided for the general population." Either is
sufficient to overcome defendants' motion.
First, A.R. 808 establishes a protected (though limited)
liberty interest in such "comparable" accommodations for
prisoners as a condition of their being placed in a Unit. Cf.
Bono v. Saxbe, 620 F.2d 609, 616 (7th Cir. 1980). Second, even
were that not so the claims are sufficiently intertwined with
the federal claims already discussed to justify their retention
as pendent state law claims.
Defendants' Amenability to Suit
Defendants advance the groundless argument that they cannot be
held responsible because they are or were supervisory
employees. As Williams' Mem. 17 points out:
The Amended Complaint plainly states that each of the
defendants is or was an administrator with direct
responsibility for the adoption and implementation of
constitutional procedures for the protective custody unit at
All the defendants are the policymakers who allegedly committed
or caused to be committed the wrongs complained of. This is not
an impermissible respondeat superior lawsuit.
Effect of Meeks v. Lane
Finally defendants urge a bizarre theory for dismissal (or at
worst transfer) of this action based on the settlement of a
prior individual action brought in this District Court, Meeks
v. Lane, 74 C 96. That settlement calls on defendants to
change certain conditions in the Unit on a 1984 timetable. It
is of course irrelevant whether and to what extent Williams'
claims may be identical to those in Meeks.*fn6 Meeks is
not a class action and Williams cannot be bound by the terms of
its settlement.*fn7 And transfer of this action to the
three-judge court that considered Meeks would not conform to
the rules of our District Court regarding case assignments.
"Contact" With the Prison Population
Only one of defendants' arguments ultimately withstands
analysis — that challenging Williams' claim that he is subject
to "contact with the general and disciplinary segregation
populations" (Complaint ¶ 33). True enough, Williams is in
the Unit precisely because he is thought to be endangered by
the general inmate population. Nonetheless, the mere fact that
he is exposed to "contact" with other prisoners does not, as a
matter of law, give rise to a claim that defendants are not
providing him with "reasonable protection." Williams has
therefore not alleged a prima facie case as to this conduct
Defendants' motion to dismiss is denied except as to Complaint
¶ 33, which is stricken. Defendants are ordered to answer the
Complaint on or before September 20, 1982.