The opinion of the court was delivered by: G. PATRICK MURPHY, Chief Judge, District
Plaintiff, a former inmate in the Menard Correctional Center,
brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff previously was granted
leave to proceed in forma pauperis without payment of an
initial partial filing fee.
This case now is before the Court for a preliminary review of
the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides, in
(a) Screening. The court shall review, before
docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as
practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil
action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a
governmental entity or officer or employee of a
(b) Grounds for Dismissal. On review, the court
shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the
complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks
an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319
, 325 (1989). After evaluating Plaintiff's
claims individually, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its
authority under Section 1915A to dismiss those claims that are
frivolous before allowing Plaintiff to proceed with his remaining
claims. See House v. Belford, 956 F.2d 711
, 718-19 (7th
Plaintiff states that in June 2002 he witnessed Defendants
Childers and Holder beat a fellow inmate at Menard Correctional
Center. Plaintiff provided statements about the beating to Menard
Internal Affairs and to the Illinois State Police. Thereafter,
Defendant Childers came to Plaintiff's cell each night and
threatened him with retaliation if he did not "change his story."
Plaintiff filed numerous grievances regarding the harassment,
asking to be assigned to a different cell or to have Defendant
Childers removed from his cell house during the course of the
internal investigation. The grievances were denied.
Plaintiff states that from September 2002 to January 2003,
Defendants Albert, Hall, Holder, Childers, and other unknown
corrections officers refused to feed Plaintiff breakfast.
Furthermore, Defendants Spiller and Gales ordered Defendants
Mezo, Welborn, and Dunn to strip Plaintiff of all of his
property, turn off his water, and deny him soap, toothpaste,
sheets, mattress, access to showers, toilet paper, and access to
the law library for fifteen days.*fn1
Based on these allegations, Plaintiff argues that the actions
of Defendants violated the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff argues
that these deprivations constituted "deliberate indifference" and
caused emotional and mental stress, which led to a "mental break
down" and caused Plaintiff to be put on anti-psychotic medication
and transferred to the Pontiac South Mental Correctional Center.
Plaintiff also argues that he was denied his right of access to
Plaintiff further states that in September 2002, Defendant
Rowland wrote a false disciplinary report against Plaintiff for assault. Defendant Holder filed a
corroborating incident report. Plaintiff argues that he was
denied due process because the adjustment committee held a
hearing on the report without him being present to prove that he
was innocent. Plaintiff alleges that the adjustment committee
falsified records to show that Plaintiff refused to appear but
did not obtain Plaintiff's signature on a "denial slip." As a
result, Plaintiff lost six months of good conduct credit, access
to the telephone, state pay, access to recreation with the
general population, and food items from the commissary.
Cruel and Unusual Conditions of Confinement
Plaintiff alleges that he was stripped of his personal
property, his water was shut off, and he was denied soap,
toothpaste, sheets, a mattress, access to showers, and toilet
paper for a period of fifteen days. In a case involving
conditions of confinement in a prison, two elements are required
to establish violations of the Eighth Amendment's cruel and
unusual punishments clause. First, an objective element requires
a showing that the conditions deny the inmate "the minimal
civilized measure of life's necessities," creating an excessive
risk to the inmate's health or safety. Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). The second requirement is a subjective
element establishing a defendant's culpable state of mind.
Id. Based on these standards, Plaintiff's claims cannot be
dismissed at this time. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A; see Kimbrough v.
O'Neill, 523 F.2d 1057, 1059 (7th Cir. 1975) (plaintiff
stated claim under § 1983 where he was subjected to three days in
solitary confinement without water, toilet, mattress, bedding, or
personal hygiene items).
Plaintiff alleges that he was denied breakfast from September
2002 to January 2003. In some circumstances, a prisoner's
allegations of denial of food may satisfy the elements required
to show an Eighth Amendment violation. The Seventh Circuit Court of
Appeals has held that the denial of food is not a per se
violation of the Eighth Amendment. Rather, a district court "must
assess the amount and duration of the deprivation." Reed v.
McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 853 (7th Cir. 1999); see generally
Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 304 (1991) (it would be an
Eighth Amendment violation to deny a prisoner of an "identifiable
human need such as food"); Sanville v. McCaughtry,
266 F.3d 724, 734 (7th Cir. 2001) (withholding food from an inmate
can, in some circumstances, satisfy the first Farmer prong);
Talib v. Gilley, 138 F.3d 211, 214 n. 3 (5th Cir. 1998)
(noting that denial of one out of every nine meals is not a
constitutional violation); Cooper v. Sheriff of Lubbock County,
929 F.2d 1078 (5th Cir. 1991) (finding failure to feed a
prisoner for twelve days unconstitutional); Cunningham v.
Jones, 567 F.2d 653, 669 (6th Cir. 1977), app. after
remand, 667 F.2d 565 (1982) (feeding inmates only once a day for
15 days would constitute cruel and unusual punishment only if it
"deprive[s] the prisoners concerned . . . of sufficient food to
maintain normal health"). Based on these standards, this claim
cannot be dismissed at this point in the litigation.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
Denial of Access to Law Library
Plaintiff alleges that during the fifteen day period, he also
was denied access to the prison law library.
Prison officials have an affirmative duty to provide
inmates with reasonable access to courts, which
includes providing access to adequate libraries (or
counsel). DeMallory v. Cullen, 855 F.2d 442, 446
(7th Cir. 1988). The right of access "requires
prison authorities to assist inmates in the
preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by
providing prisoners with adequate law libraries or
adequate assistance from persons trained in the law."
Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977).
Nonetheless, reasonable access does not mean
unlimited access. Hossman v. Sprandlin,
812 F.2d 1019, 1021 (7th Cir. 1987).
Martin v. Davies, 917 F.2d 336
, 338 (7th Cir. 1990).
Violations of the right of access to the courts may be vindicated in federal court in a civil rights action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. An allegation of actual or
threatened detriment is an essential element of a § 1983 action
for denial of access to the courts. Martin v. Davies,
917 F.2d at 340; Howland v. Kilquist, 833 F.2d 639
, 642-43 (7th Cir.
1987); Hossman v. Sprandlin, 812 F.2d at 1021-22. Such an
allegation must be more than merely conclusory, and a complaint
is inadequate if it "offers no specific facts to support these
allegations no court dates missed; no inability to make timely
filings; no denial of legal assistance to which he was entitled;
and no loss of a case which could have been ...