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Miller v. Madison County Jail

August 16, 2007

JAMES E. MILLER, INMATE #S03495, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MADISON COUNTY JAIL, ROBERT HERTZ, AND JOE GULASH, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate in the Madison County Jail, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides, in pertinent part:

(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 that none of the claims in the complaint may be dismissed at this point in the litigation.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff states that during the two-year period he was detained in the Madison County Jail, he was kept on "suicide watch" the entire time, on the orders of Defendants Gulash and Hertz, despite repeated recommendations from medical staff that Plaintiff be moved to a less-restrictive confinement for the benefit of his health. As a result of the continued confinement on suicide watch, Plaintiff experienced the following deprivations. For an entire year (between August 2003 and July 2004), he did not have a mattress in his cell and was therefore forced to sleep on the concrete floor. Plaintiff was scheduled for only one shower per week, but in fact went for months at a time without receiving a shower. He was allowed to send or receive mail only through his attorney. Plaintiff was denied all recreation. He was denied any cleaning supplies and was therefore unable to clean his cell. He was not allowed to make purchases from the commissary resulting in the denial of personal hygiene products and writing materials. Until July 2004, Plaintiff was denied all materials relating to his criminal case. Finally, Plaintiff was prescribed psychotropic medications to deal with the mental ramifications of confinement in the suicide cell for two years.

Plaintiff states that Defendants Gulash and Hertz would not remove Plaintiff from the restrictive confinement even after a number of doctors reported that Plaintiff was no longer a danger to himself and that his mental condition was made worse by the continued restrictive confinement.

Plaintiff states that in January 2006 he was returned to the Madison County Jail on a writ, and was again placed in the stripped "suicide watch" cell.

LEGAL STANDARDS

To state a claim under § 1983, 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). The constitutional guarantee of due process applies to pretrial detainees' claims of unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). Bell was a case of federal confinement implicating Fifth Amendment due process, but the holding has also been applied to cases involving state confinement implicating by Fourteenth Amendment due process. Anderson v. Gutschenritter, 836 F.2d 346, 348-49 (7th Cir.1988); Hines v. Sheahan, 845 F. Supp. 1265, 1267 (N.D. Ill. 1994).

Bell holds that a pretrial detainee may be detained pending trial and may be subjected "to the restrictions and conditions of the detention facility so long asthose conditions and restrictions do not amount to punishment, or otherwise violate the Constitution." Bell, 441 U.S. at 536-37; see also Hart v. Sheahan, 396 F.3d 887, 891 (7th Cir. 2005). "[I]f a particular condition or restriction of pretrial detention is reasonably related to a legitimate governmental objective, it does not, without more, amount to 'punishment.'" Id. at 539. Legitimate governmental objectives are not limited to ensuring the detainee's presence at trial; they also may include interests stemming from the government's need to effectively manage the detention facility, or to maintain security and order there. Id. at 540. "Restraints that are reasonably related to the institution's interest in ...


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