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Thomas v. Ramos

November 3, 1997

ANTHONY THOMAS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

ANTHONY RAMOS, MARGARET THOMPSON, LEONA GREGORY, DAVID ESSENPREIS, AND YOLANDE WILLIAMS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

No. 94 C 4080 -- Marvin E. Aspen, Chief Judge.

Before ESCHBACH, COFFEY, and DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judges.

COFFEY, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED JANUARY 16, 1997

DECIDED NOVEMBER 3, 1997

While Anthony Thomas was an inmate incarcerated in the Stateville Correctional Center in Illinois, serving a twelve year sentence for armed robbery, he received a disciplinary ticket for leaving his cell without permission and for threatening to strike a corrections officer on May 15, 1994. He was placed in segregation pending a hearing. After an initial hearing before a three-member panel of Stateville's Adjustment Committee and a subsequent continuance to obtain testimony from a witness, a second Committee panel issued a disciplinary sentence for Thomas's violations. After the Committee rendered a judgment on Thomas's infractions of prison rules, he continued to remain in segregation for approximately two months despite the fact that the Committee did not sentence him to any segregation time. Thereafter, Thomas brought a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 against five employees of the correctional center alleging that he had been denied procedural due process and that his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment was violated in that he was denied the opportunity to exercise outside of his cell during his period of confinement in the segregation unit. The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Thomas appeals. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

On May 15, 1994, several inmates were being escorted from their cells to a medical area of Stateville. Thomas was not one of the inmates being taken to the medical area and was instructed by correctional officers not to leave his cell. Despite these directions, Thomas decided to wander to another wing of the prison without permission. Shortly thereafter he was caught by several corrections officers. When defendant Dunlap and three other correctional officers approached Thomas and ordered him to return to his cell, Thomas refused and threatened to hit the officers. At this time, the prisoner was taken to the segregation unit by Lieutenant Bagley. Later that day Officer Dunlap wrote a disciplinary report charging Thomas with unauthorized movement, intimidation/threats, disobeying an order, and insolence.

Under Stateville's regulations an inmate, when placed in segregation on temporary confinement status, is entitled to a disciplinary review hearing within eight days. Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20, sec.sec. 504.40(a)-(b), 504.80(k)(3). A hearing is conducted by a three-member panel of Stateville's Adjustment Committee ("Committee"). The Committee either dismisses the charges, issues a penalty for the inmate's infractions, or places an inmate on further investigative status. Thomas appeared before the Committee on May 20, 1994, and admitted to being out of his cell without permission, but denied threatening any officers. The Committee was chaired by one of the defendants, David Essenpreis, the case work supervisor in Thomas's segregation unit. Thomas requested a continuance, which was granted in order that he might obtain the testimony of Officer Bagley, whom he stated would corroborate his assertion that he had not made any threats against the officers. He was returned to segregation and placed on investigative status pending the reconvening of the Adjustment Committee. An inmate can be placed on investigative status for up to thirty days, Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20, sec.sec. 504.50(c)(3), 504.40(a)(1)-(4). *fn1 Superintendent of Segregation Unit 1, Anthony Ramos, also a defendant in this action, stated in his deposition that if an inmate is placed on investigative status because he requested a continuance at his first hearing in order to obtain the testimony of witnesses then there is no time limit for how long he can be held in investigative status so long as the charges against him are resolved in a "timely manner."

The hearing was reconvened on May 31, 1994, before a newly comprised Committee consisting of defendants Margaret Thompson, Yolande Williams, and Leona Gregory. Thomas states that because he did not receive notice of this second hearing he was unable to attend and reiterate his version of the events of May 15, 1994. Officer Bagley, the witness Thomas requested, also was not present, but in his absence the Committee received and reviewed a report from an investigator stating that Bagley would confirm the accuracy of the disciplinary report that Thomas threatened to strike a correctional officer rather than corroborate Thomas's denial of any such threat. The summary of the proceedings from the May 20 meeting was read at the second Committee meeting and the panel found that Thomas had committed the offense of leaving his cell without permission and threatened to strike a correctional officer, as set forth in the disciplinary report on file. The Committee denied Thomas commissary privileges for two months and gave him two months demotion in prisoner status to C-grade. The Committee did not order any segregation confinement. The parties agree that Thomas was not released from segregation until at least July 21, 1994, some 51 days after the second Committee conference, in spite of the fact that the Committee's determination did not include an imposition of confinement in the segregation unit. *fn2

On June 7, 1994, Thomas received a copy of the second Committee's summary, reflecting that the Committee had not recommended that he receive any further segregation punishment. It should be noted that, shortly after June 7, Thomas requested that his prison counselor arrange for his release from segregation forthwith. His counselor responded in writing on June 13, 1994, stating that the Committee was still investigating the charges against him and that thus, his detention status in segregation would continue as he was now classified as being held on investigative status. Thomas argues that as his disciplinary sentence did not include an order of further confinement in segregation it was improper for him to remain in segregation. Furthermore, Thomas asserts that defendant Essenpreis, the case work supervisor of the segregation unit, must have incorrectly informed the counselor that he was still on investigative status.

While Thomas was held in segregation, he was confined with another inmate in a cell that he described as approximately as wide as his outstretched arms and twice that long. Thomas claims that he remained locked in this cell 24 hours a day, except those few occasions when he was allowed to visit the doctor or speak with Ramos. Thomas asserts that the reason he visited the doctor was for treatment of mental and physical symptoms caused by the stress of confinement. Additionally, he claims that despite prison regulations which state that prisoners in segregation are to be given two hours of outside exercise each week, he was never allowed to exercise in the yard during the two month segregation period. Thomas stated in his affidavit that, "I never refused yard. I may not have been able to go to yard some days, as they often had yard at the same time I went to the doctor." (Appellant's Br., Affidavit of Anthony Thomas, App. at 18 para. 12 (emphasis in original).) On the other hand, the named defendants assert that, according to prison logs, Thomas was given the opportunity to exercise outside in the yard during his period in segregation on four separate occasions. The defendants further contend that Thomas accepted only one such opportunity and refused the three other opportunities.

Thomas also claims that during his period of segregation he had little contact with any other people *fn3 and was barred from all prison activities, including among others, educational and work programs. Thomas complains that when Ramos, the Superintendent of Segregation Unit 1, made his weekly rounds through the segregation unit and in particular on one occasion while in Ramos's office, he repeatedly requested that he be released from segregation and complained about his not receiving any outdoor exercise.

He states that Ramos replied that he lacked the authority to release any inmate from segregation and explained that only the warden and/or the Adjustment Committee had the authority to release an individual from segregation. Ramos further explained that the normal procedures for the release of an inmate from segregation are as follows. After the Committee reaches a sentencing determination that does not include an imposition of time in segregation, the clerk of the Committee signs a transfer slip, which is then initialed by the supervisor of the Committee. *fn4 Then some member of the Committee, acting for and on behalf of the Committee, calls the segregation unit and informs them that a transfer slip is being sent. Ramos's deposition recites that after an officer of the segregation unit receives this phone call the inmate is released from segregation.

Ramos testified that he had no recollection of receiving any communication from the Adjustment Committee stating that Thomas was supposed to be released from segregation until July 22, 1994. The three members of the second Adjustment Committee, defendants Thompson, Williams, and Gregory, each stated that it was not their responsibility to provide the superintendent of the segregation cellhouse with their decision and that their responsibility was only to forward a summary of their Committee's action to the warden for his review.

Thomas filed a pro se complaint in the district court on July 11, 1994, while in segregation and thereafter retained counsel. His complaint named the five employees of Stateville referred to above and argued that his due process rights were violated by the named defendants in that they: (1) failed to give him advance written notice of the May 20 Adjustment Committee hearing; *fn5 (2) neither informed him, nor allowed him to attend the May 31 meeting, thereby preventing him from retelling his side of the story and calling witnesses; and (3) kept him in segregation after the determination of his sentence, despite the fact that the record reflects no imposition of confinement in segregation. Additionally, he alleged ...


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