United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
August 12, 2005.
ROBERT MILES, Plaintiff,
THE 7 AM TO 3 PM DIETARY FOOD SUPERVISORS AT BIG MUDDY CORRECTIONAL CENTER, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff, a former inmate in the Big Muddy 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 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
(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). Upon careful review of the
complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise
its authority under § 1915A; this action is legally frivolous and
thus subject to summary dismissal.
Plaintiff states that on November 15, 2003, he was "subjected
to cruel and unusual punishment" by the Defendant Food
Supervisors because they sent him a bag of potato chips that "a
rodent" had bitten a hole into, leaving tiny teeth marks.
Plaintiff also states that he was denied due process because
prison administrators denied his grievances regarding the bag of
chips, failed to take any action in response to his complaint,
and failed to investigate Plaintiff's allegations.
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.
[N]either negligence nor strict liability is the
appropriate inquiry in prison-conditions cases. . . .
prisoners who contest the conditions of their
confinement under the eighth amendment must establish
that their custodians either established the
conditions to inflict wanton pain or are deliberately
indifferent to whether the conditions have these
effects. The eighth amendment is concerned with
"punishment", and . . . showing a culpable mental
state is essential in establishing that conditions of
confinement are part of the "punishment".
Steading v. Thompson, 941 F.2d 498
, 499-500 (7th Cir. 1991),
citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294
Based on these standards, Plaintiff does not state an
actionable constitutional claim. Receiving a bag of chips ridden
with rodent teeth marks and holes is no doubt disturbing, but it
comes nowhere near a denial of "the minimal civilized measure's
of life's necessities" that would create an excessive risk to an inmate's health or safety. But
even if the rodent-bitten bag of chips could constitute such a
denial, Plaintiff has not alleged that defendants possessed a
culpable state of mind as required to state a constitutional
claim. At best, Defendants were negligent. A defendant can never
be held liable under § 1983 for negligence. Daniels v.
Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986); Zarnes v. Rhodes,
64 F.3d 285, 290 (7th Cir. 1995).
As to Plaintiff's claim that he was denied due process when his
grievances complaining about the bag of chips were not
investigated and were denied, he has also not stated an
actionable constitutional claim. "[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).
In summary, Plaintiff's complaint does not survive review under
§ 1915A. Accordingly, this action is DISMISSED with prejudice.
Plaintiff is advised that the dismissal of this action will count
as one of his three allotted "strikes" under the provisions of
28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
All pending motions are DENIED as moot.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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