United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
August 25, 2005.
ROBERT MILES, Plaintiff,
C/O CHILDERS, W. HUSCH, K. CHAMNESS, LIEUTENANT SMITH, SERGEANT WILLIAMS, MIKE SANDERS, EDDIE, JACKIE MILLER, and ROGER E. WALKER, JR., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL J. REAGAN, 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
In another lawsuit filed the same day as the instant case,
Plaintiff claimed that he was subjected to cruel and unusual
punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment because he
received a bag of chips from the Food Supervisors at Big Muddy
Correctional Center that had been bitten into by a rodent,
leaving a hole and teeth marks. See Miles v. Food Supervisors,
Case No. 3:04-cv-624-JPG (S.D. Illinois, filed September 7,
2004). That case was dismissed as frivolous under the dictates of
28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Plaintiff now brings the instant lawsuit,
claiming that he received false disciplinary charges from
defendants regarding the incident.
Plaintiff states that Defendants Childers and Husch passed out
food trays on November 15, 2003. When Plaintiff noticed the hole
and teeth marks in his bag of chips, he informed Childers and
Husch and asked for another bag of chips. Plaintiff states that
Childers and Husch ignored him, even after Plaintiff attempted to
get their attention by banging on the door of his cell. Plaintiff
then asked to see a Lieutenant. When his request was denied,
Plaintiff told Defendants Childers and Husch that would hang
himself if he was not allowed to speak to a Lieutenant and he
began tying a sheet around his neck. Defendants Childers and
Husch then entered Plaintiff's cell, handcuffed him, removed him
from his cell, and locked him in the shower. Plaintiff was never
given a replacement bag of chips. Defendant Sergeant Williams
came to speak to Plaintiff, asking him why he attempted to hang
himself. Plaintiff stated that he felt he had to in order to be
allowed to speak to a Lieutenant. After approximately an hour of
being locked in the shower, Plaintiff was allowed to speak with
Lieutenant Chamness, who asked whether Plaintiff did indeed try
to hang himself. Plaintiff admitted that he did. Plaintiff was then taken to isolation in the Health Care
Unit ("HCU") for three days. Plaintiff states that this treatment
constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
After he was released from HCU, Plaintiff was given three
disciplinary reports, all regarding the incident described above
and all of which, Plaintiff claims, were inaccurate descriptions
of what occurred. As a result of the reports, Plaintiff lost good
conduct credit and was put in segregation. Plaintiff filed
grievances regarding the false disciplinary charges, but they
were denied without investigation. Plaintiff states that the
denials by Defendants Mike Sanders, Eddie, Jackie Miller, and
Roger E. Walker, Jr. constituted denial of his constitutional
right to due process.
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Plaintiff states, first, that his treatment violated his right
to be free from cruel and unusual 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.
[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
(1991). Whether Plaintiff
is claiming that the bag of chips with a hole constituted cruel
and unusual punishment or that the conditions of his isolation after his
suicide threat did, he fails to state a claim on either ground.
Receiving a bag of chips with a rodent-bitten hole does not
implicate denial of "the minimal civilized measure's of life's
necessities" that would create an excessive risk to an inmate's
health or safety. 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).
To the extent that Plaintiff is claiming that being locked in
the shower for one hour and being put in isolation in the HCU
after he threatened to hang himself constituted cruel and unusual
punishment, this argument also fails. Plaintiff admits that he
threatened to hang himself and that Defendant Chamness was
concerned with whether Plaintiff did attempt to hang himself.
Although isolation might constitute a "denial of the minimal
civilized measures of life's necessities," Plaintiff has not
shown the requisite culpable state of mind of the Defendants.
Plaintiff does not state that Defendants isolated him
intentionally to inflict wanton pain upon him. Instead, the
allegations suggest that Plaintiff was isolated for his own
safety. As such, Plaintiff has not stated a claim of cruel and
unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Second, Plaintiff states that he was denied due process in the
handling of his grievances. "[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's statement that he
was denied due process in the grievance procedure does not state
a constitutional claim.
To the extent that Plaintiff is claiming he was denied due
process in the disciplinary proceedings, he also fails to state a
claim. In Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974), 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 556-572.
Wolff required that inmates facing disciplinary
charges for misconduct be accorded  24 hours'
advance written notice of the charges against them;
 a right to call witnesses and present documentary
evidence in defense, unless doing so would jeopardize
institutional safety or correctional goals;  the
aid of a staff member or inmate in presenting a
defense, provided the inmate is illiterate or the
issues complex;  an impartial tribunal; and  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). The Supreme
Court has also held that due process requires that the findings
of the disciplinary tribunal must be supported by some evidence
in the record. Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445
(1985); McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784
, 786 (7th Cir.
Ascertaining whether this standard is satisfied does
not require examination of the entire record,
independent assessment of the credibility of
witnesses, or weighing of the evidence. Instead, the
relevant question is whether there is any evidence in
the record that could support the conclusion reached
by the disciplinary board.
Hill, 459 U.S. at 455-56. Plaintiff does not state that he was
denied any of the constitutional protections outlined in Wolff.
As such, he does not state a due process claim based on his
allegations. 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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