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QUALLS v. HERTZ

June 6, 2005.

STEVEN QUALLS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT HERTZ and JOSEPH GULASH, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: G. PATRICK MURPHY, Chief Judge, District

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, currently an inmate in the Graham 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, and he has tendered his initial partial filing fee as ordered. In his complaint, Plaintiff presents a litany of gripes about conditions he endured in the Madison County Jail from his arrival there in May 2003 through early September 2003, when he filed this action; each of these gripes is discussed below.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:
(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 governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal. — On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint —
(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). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; parts of this action are legally frivolous and, thus, subject to summary dismissal.

  PRE-TRIAL DETAINEES GENERALLY

  To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Generally, confinement of pretrial detainees may not be punitive, because "under the Due Process Clause, a detainee may not be punished prior to an adjudication of guilt." Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). Thus, conditions of pretrial confinement must be "reasonably related to a legitimate governmental objective." Id. at 539. See also Murphy v. Walker, 51 F.3d 714, 717 (7th Cir. 1995); Brownell v. Figel, 950 F.2d 1285 (7th Cir. 1991). At the same time, "[t]he conditions of imprisonment, whether of pretrial detainees or of convicted criminals, do not reach even the threshold of constitutional concern until a showing is made of `genuine privations and hardship over an extended period of time.'" Duran v. Elrod, 760 F.2d 756, 759 (7th Cir. 1985). Lapses from minimum standards of sanitation may be excusable where such conditions are temporary and affect only a few individuals. Lunsford v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1574, 1580 (7th Cir. 1994); Harris v. Fleming, 839 F.2d 1232 (7th Cir. 1988). 1. GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE

  Plaintiff's first claim involves the handling of grievances at Madison County Jail. He states that in August 2003, he presented Hertz and Gulash with a multi-part grievance. In response, Gulash came to the cell block, briefly reviewed the grievance, and orally rendered his opinion that the grievance had no merit. Plaintiff is upset that Gulash would not provide him with a photocopy of the grievance, nor would Gulash sign it. Plaintiff alleges that such handling of his grievance constitutes a denial of due process.

  "[A] state's inmate grievance procedures do not give rise to a liberty interest protected by the due process clause." Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1430 (7th Cir. 1995). The Constitution requires no procedure at all, and the failure of state prison officials to follow their own procedures does not, of itself, violate the Constitution. Maust v. Headley, 959 F.2d 644, 648 (7th Cir. 1992); Shango v. Jurich, 681 F.2d 1091 (7th Cir. 1982). Accordingly, Plaintiff is not entitled to any particular procedures in the handling of his grievances, and no constitutional violation occurred when an oral opinion was rendered. Therefore, Plaintiff's claim regarding the handling of his grievances is dismissed from this action with prejudice.

  2. LOCK-DOWN

  Plaintiff states that on two different occasions, he was "locked down" for no reason, and unspecified privileges were revoked. He alleges that this treatment constitutes a violation of his rights to due process.

  Although confinement of pretrial detainees may not be punitive, see Bell, 441 U.S. at 535,
a pretrial detainee can be punished for misconduct that occurs while he is awaiting trial in a pretrial confinement status. Notably, the basis for this punishment is not the underlying crime of which he stands accused; rather, this punishment is based upon the detainee's actions while in pretrial confinement.
Rapier v. Harris, 172 F.3d 999, 1003 (7th Cir. 1999). The Seventh Circuit has also recognized that, for pretrial detainees, procedural protections are required prior to the imposition of any punishment. Rapier, 172 F.3d at 1005; Whitford v. Boglino, 63 F.3d 527, 531 n. 4 (7th Cir. 1995) (indicating in dictum that a due process hearing is required). See generally Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974).

  Plaintiff alleges that he was accorded no due process at all before being locked down; therefore, the Court is unable to dismiss this due process claim at this point in the litigation. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

  3. HAIRCUTS

  Plaintiff states that Madison County Jail does not provide free haircuts to inmates. Instead, a local barber periodically comes in to provide services, charging $3-5 per haircut. In the four-month period covered by the complaint, the barber only came once; Plaintiff alleges that he was denied a haircut at that time.

  The Court is unaware of any constitutional provision requiring that an inmate be provided with a free haircut, or with any haircut at all. Therefore, Plaintiff's claim regarding ...


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