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Parrott v. United States

July 30, 2008


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Terre Haute Division. No. 2:03-cv-00026-Richard L. Young, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wood, Circuit Judge


Before BAUER, MANION, and WOOD, Circuit Judges.

This appeal marks this court's second encounter with Roy Sylvester Parrott. On July 11, 2001, Parrott, then incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, was stabbed 22 times in the face, head, and arm by another inmate, Kenneth Gregory. As a result of the attack, Parrott suffered serious lacerations to his forehead, ear, shoulder, and eyes. Shortly after his release from the hospital some two weeks later, Parrott was in the process of being transferred to Wallens Ridge, a state prison in Virginia. Though Parrott eventually made it to the new institution, his personal property did not. Instead, Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") staff at the Terre Haute institution sent Parrott's property to his sister, who lives in the Virgin Islands and who, because of the policies at Wallens Ridge, is now forbidden to send Parrott's property back to him. BOP insists that Parrott instructed its staff to ship the property to his sister. Parrot retorts that he did no such thing. Because prison officials at Terre Haute negligently mishandled his property and sent it away without his permission, Parrot argues, it is now lost to him for good.

These events prompted Parrott to sue the United States and several BOP employees under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671-2680, for (1) failure to protect him from being attacked by another inmate, and (2) negligent handling of his personal property. The district court dismissed the United States and several individual defendants after pre-screening the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and then it granted summary judgment in favor of the remaining defendants. Parrott appealed, and this court held that the claims against the individual employees were properly dismissed, but that those against the United States should have been retained. We thus sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings on Parrott's FTCA claims against the United States. See Parrott v. Gehrke, 103 F. App'x 908 (7th Cir. 2004) (Parrott I).

The remand resulted in a grant of summary judgment against Parrott on both of his claims. In addition to challenging that ultimate decision on appeal, Parrott, who represented himself pro se throughout the district court proceedings, also argues that the district court erred when it denied various discovery motions. Parrott asserts that the district court's handling of discovery provides an independent basis for reversal, particularly on the failure-to-protect claim. We agree with him, and we therefore remand the case to the district court once again for further discovery on the question whether BOP officials negligently failed to protect Parrott from Gregory's assault.


Because this case reaches us on summary judgment for the United States, we construe the facts and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to Parrott. Steen v. Myers, 486 F.3d 1017, 1021 (7th Cir. 2007). Parrott's term of incarceration at the federal prison in Terre Haute began in May of 1997. As we noted in Parrott I, his claims arise from two separate events. First, on July 11, 2001, as Parrott was working in the kitchen with Kenneth Gregory, his former cellmate, Gregory attacked Parrott with a kitchen knife and inflicted multiple stab wounds to Parrott's face, head, arms, and chest. This assault was, unfortunately, predictable in light of the bad blood that had existed between Parrott and Gregory for at least a year. The two became cellmates on January 17, 2000, sharing quarters in the Prison's Special Housing Unit ("SHU"), to which inmates are assigned for disciplinary segregation and administrative detention. During their time as cellmates, Gregory happened to learn the name and address of Parrott's ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Mechling. A few months later, Gregory was assigned to a different cell. From there, armed with Mechling's contact information, Gregory began to write harassing letters to her. Parrott learned of these letters in April of 2000 and complained to BOP at that time.

Within a couple months of Parrott's complaint to BOP about Gregory, the Prison placed the two former cell-mates in a recreation area together. (The record is not clear on the details of inmates' recreation time, but it suggests that such time is strictly regimented, and that some prisoners remain completely isolated, while others are permitted to share the "recreation cage" with other inmates.) As prison officials removed Parrott's restraints, Parrott began to strike Gregory, who remained in cuffs and therefore did not strike back. Prison officials quickly intervened to separate and restrain both men, neither of whom was injured in the incident, and neither of whom was disciplined as a result of the confrontation.

That same date, June 7, 2000, Terre Haute Warden Harley G. Lappin prepared a "Report of the Incident," describing the altercation between Parrott and Gregory and the Prison's response to it. Though the Government eventually, after repeated requests from Parrott, produced two versions of this report during the proceedings below, both versions are heavily redacted. (Indeed, more has been removed than has been left for review.) They indicate that the inmates involved in the incident were placed in separate cells following the confrontation, and they also reflect that Parrott's "CIMS Category" was "Separation." ("CIMS" refers to BOP's Central Inmate Monitoring System. See 28 C.F.R. §§ 524.70-76. We explain the significance of "Separation" status in a moment.) The report reflected that it was to be placed in the "Inmate Central File" and noted that the incident was, at the time the report was made, under further investigation. In both versions of the report that are in the record, any and all information about Gregory has been redacted by BOP.

Because of the redactions, all we can infer is that Parrott was to be separated from someone; there is no way to tell from whom. According to the relevant regulations, a CIMS classification of "Separation" designates "[i]nmates who may not be confined in the same institution (unless the institution has the ability to prevent any physical contact between the inmates concerned) with other specified individuals" in federal custody. 28 C.F.R. § 524.72(f) (emphasis added). Thus, if at the time prison staff placed Parrott and Gregory together in the recreation area the two were on separation status from each other, then the Terre Haute officials violated BOP's own regulations and orders. We do not know whether this was the case, for BOP redacted that information from the reports provided to Parrott, and the district court refused either to compel the production of a non-redacted version or even to view the full report in camera to see if it revealed, as Parrott suspects, that Gregory was indeed the "specified individual" referenced in Parrott's separation order.

After the June 7, 2000, dust-up, Parrott remained in the SHU until July 5, 2001, when he was returned to the Prison's general population. There is some dispute over the question whether, at that time, Parrott signed a statement indicating that he wished to return to the general population and had no concerns regarding that return, and purporting to release prison staff from liability in the event that Parrott was "killed or injured" as a result. Parrott denies signing such a document, and further argues that the alleged waiver would be ineffective to relieve BOP of liability even if he had signed something. BOP takes the opposite position, but since the dispute over signing is a question of fact, we must assume at this stage that Parrott signed no such thing. Parrott did not know at the time of his release that Gregory, too, was back in the general population.

Parrott certainly found out no more than six days later, on July 11, 2001, that Gregory was back in circulation. On that day, the Prison assigned Parrott and Gregory to the same work detail in the kitchen, and Gregory's attack occurred. The record contains photographs taken after the incident. These show the extent of Parrott's wounds, which included a half-inch gash in the center of his head, and deep cuts above his left eye. Parrott was hospitalized for approximately two weeks following the incident. Also after the incident, BOP Special Investigative Assistant Terry Coleman prepared an Investigative Report dated August 2, 2001, for Warden Lappin; Coleman's report confirmed that the separation order previously in effect (as indicated on Lappin's June 7, 2000, report) remained in place at the time of the kitchen assault on July 11, 2001. Coleman's report does not, however, mention from whom Parrott was to be kept apart.

The incident that underlies Parrott's property claim occurred shortly after his release from the hospital. Under an agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Virgin Islands Department of Corrections, Parrott and several other federal prisoners were scheduled for transfer to Wallens Ridge Correctional Facility, a non-federal institution in the state of Virginia. On July 25, 2001, prison staff brought Parrott and his personal belongings to Terre Haute's receiving and discharge area, where he was to be processed for transfer. At this time, prison employee Stephen Girton took an inventory of Parrott's property and advised Parrott (wrongly, as it turned out) that restrictions at Wallens Ridge prevented the Terre Haute prison officials from shipping all of Parrott's belongings to the new facility. The basis for Girton's advice was a memorandum from Dwayne R. Dubbs, BOP's Inmate Transportation Coordinator, sent on July 13, 2001 (the "Dubbs Memo"), which advised BOP staff in Terre Haute that certain types of personal property were not permitted in Wallens Ridge. The Dubbs Memo listed the names of the prisoners to be transferred and stated that "Wallens Ridge has a strict personal property policy and does not allow personal clothing with the exception of the items identified below. Hobby craft items, nail clippers, and small scissors are not authorized." Directly below that paragraph was the list of permitted personal clothing items:

One pair of shower shoes

Six pairs of white athletic shorts

Six white undershirts or T-shirts with sleeves ...

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