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JACKSON v. ST. CLAIR COUNTY JAIL

August 2, 2005.

RAFEAL A. JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ST. CLAIR COUNTY JAIL, MEARL J. JUSTUS and T.J. COLLINS, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID HERNDON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, formerly an inmate in the St. Clair County Jail (hereinafter "the jail"), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 Plaintiff previously was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and he has tendered his initial partial filing fee as ordered. In this case, Plaintiff sets forth a litany of gripes about conditions at the jail; he divides his complaint into 15 separate claims, as summarized and 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; portions of this action are legally frivolous and thus subject to summary dismissal.

  GENERAL PRINCIPLES: PRE-TRIAL DETAINEES

  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).

  COUNT 1

  Plaintiff's first claim is that the law library at the jail is woefully inadequate. He states that case reporters are outdated, that pages are missing from many of the books, and there are no certified paralegals or jailhouse law clerks employed to assist inmates with their legal matters.

  The Seventh Circuit uses a two-part test to decide if prison administrators have violated the right of access to the courts. Smith v. Shawnee Library Sys., 60 F.3d 317 (7th Cir. 1995); Jenkins v. Lane, 977 F.2d 266, 268 (7th Cir. 1992). First, the prisoner must show that prison officials failed "to assist 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." Jenkins, 977 F.2d at 268 (quoting Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977)). Second, he must be able to show "some quantum of detriment caused by the challenged conduct of state officials resulting in the interruption and/or delay of plaintiff's pending or contemplated litigation." Alston v. DeBruyn, 13 F.3d 1036, 1041 (7th Cir. 1994); Jenkins, 977 F.2d at 268; Shango v. Jurich, 965 F.2d 289, 291 (7th Cir. 1992); Howland v. Kilquist, 833 F.2d 639, 642-43 (7th Cir. 1987); Hossman v. Sprandlin, 812 F.2d 1019, 1021 n. 2 (7th Cir. 1987). That means that a detriment must exist, a detriment resulting from illegal conduct that affects litigation. It does not mean that any delay is a detriment. Kincaid v. Vail, 969 F.2d 594, 603 (7th Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 113 S.Ct. 1002 (1993). Regardless of the length of an alleged delay, a prisoner must show actual substantial prejudice to specific litigation. Kincaid, 969 F.2d at 603.

  In this case, Plaintiff has not alleged that he suffered any actual prejudice to any pending litigation due to the perceived inadequacy of the jail's law library. Therefore, he has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and Count 1 is dismissed from this action without prejudice with leave to amend his complaint to properly plead his case if he has one for this count.

  COUNT 2

  Plaintiff next alleges, generically, that the disciplinary procedures at the jail do not pass constitutional muster.

  When a plaintiff brings an action under § 1983 for procedural due process violations, he must show that the state deprived him of a constitutionally protected interest in "life, liberty, or property" without due process of law. Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 125 (1990). See also 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, 1289 (7th Cir. 1991). However,
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).

  In Wolff, the Supreme Court set out the minimal procedural protections that must be provided to a prisoner in disciplinary proceedings in which the prisoner loses good time, is confined to a disciplinary segregation, or otherwise subjected to some comparable deprivation of a constitutionally protected liberty interest. Id. at 556-72.

 
Wolff required that inmates facing disciplinary charges for misconduct be accorded [1] 24 hours' advance written notice of the charges against them; [2] a right to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in defense, unless doing so would jeopardize institutional safety or correctional goals; [3] the aid of a staff member or inmate in presenting a defense, provided the inmate is illiterate or the issues complex; [4] an impartial tribunal; and [5] a written statement of reasons relied on by the tribunal. 418 U.S. at 563-572.
Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 466 n. 3 (1983). In this case, Plaintiff does not include any allegations suggesting that he, personally, was ever subjected to any disciplinary proceedings for any charged misconduct, or that he, personally, was deprived of any constitutionally protected liberty interest. Therefore, he has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and Count 2 is dismissed from this action without prejudice with leave to amend his complaint to properly plead his case if he has one for this count.

  COUNT 3

  Plaintiff alleges that virtually all of the cells at the jail are frequented by roaches and other insects. These insects crawl into beds and showers, roam across tables, and occasionally find their way into meals.

  The Constitution does not require the jail to ensure the comfort of each prisoner, but only to provide such necessities as food, medical care, sanitation, and a safe environment. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347-48 (1981); Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1872 (1979); compare Thompson v. City of Los Angeles, 885 F.2d 1439, 1448 (9th Cir. 1989) (failure to provide bed or mattress punishment) and Hamm v. DeKalb County, 774 F.2d 1567, 1575 (11th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1096 (1986) (unsanitary food and sleeping on mattress on floor not punishment). 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.

  Although the presence of roaches and other insects may be unpleasant, the presence of a few bugs does not create an excessive risk to his health or safety. Further, Plaintiff does not allege that he has suffered any harm as the result of these conditions. Instead, he merely expresses concern over exposure to "potential risks of harm." However, "[n]o Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e).

  Therefore, he has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and Count 3 is dismissed ...


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