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Foster v. Sangamon County Jail

September 30, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harold A. Baker United States District Judge


Before the court are the Defendants' motion to dismiss [25], the Plaintiff's piecemeal responses [45] and [46], and the Defendants' reply [47].


It is well established that pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), reh'g denied, 405 U.S. 948 (1972). See also Tarkowski v. Robert Bartlett Realty Company, 644 F.2d 1204 (7th Cir. 1980). They can be dismissed for failure to state a claim only if it appears "beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Haines, 404 U.S. at 521; Gregory v. Nunn, 895 F.2d 413, 414 (7th Cir. 1990).

When considering whether to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court takes the allegations in the complaint as true, viewing all facts--as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom--in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bethlehem Steel Corp. v. Bush, 918 F.2d 1323, 1326 (7th Cir. 1990). Dismissal should be denied whenever it appears that a basis for federal jurisdiction in fact exists or may exist and can be stated by the plaintiff. Tarkowski, 644 F.2d at 1207, quoting Littleton v. Berbling, 468 F.2d 389 (7th Cir. 1972).


Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, plaintiff filed this Complaint on July 27, 2007 [1]. He alleges that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the Sangamon County Jail regarding sleeping conditions, overcrowding, and clothing issues. Plaintiff, having filed his third lawsuit in 2007 regarding conditions of confinement at the Sangamon County Jail (the "Jail") (see CDIL #07-3155 and 07-3118), alleges that the fourteen individuals named in this lawsuit are responsible for running the Jail.

His first claim is that when placed in booking (presumably on or about March 6, 2007), he was placed in a cell with three or four other inmates when the cell is only made to house two inmates. When plaintiff complained about where he was supposed to lay down, he was told to curl up by the toilet. This created problems with his sleep and is, according to plaintiff, demoralizing, unsanitary, and immoral.

After booking, plaintiff was placed on the "L" Block which has 12 cells. Each cell has one concrete slab for an inmate to put his mat on so that the inmate does not sleep on the floor. However, due to the overcrowded jail, inmates are being forced to sleep on the floor in a one man cell.

Plaintiff's third claim is that when he exits his cell, he must shut his door and is not allowed to bring anything out with him (such as a blanket) to sit on. There are 24 people on the L Block, but there is only room for 16 people to sit at a table. The remaining inmates are forced to sit on the cold hard concrete all day and night, including when they eat their meals. Blankets are not allowed, and inmates are not allowed to sit on the stairs. There is a chance of lint, hair or dirt getting in one's food at mealtime. The only alternative is to eat one's meals next to the bathroom wall.

Plaintiff's fourth claim is that during booking, he was forced to surrender all of his white underclothes even though the clothes he had allegedly met Jail policy and regulations. Plaintiff was not provided any other underclothes which would give him a sense of dignity and protection from the unspecified harsh elements and conditions of the Jail. Plaintiff claims that although inmates are allowed to purchase extra underclothes from the commissary, he was indigent and could not afford to purchase underclothing.

Plaintiff's fifth claim is that the Sangamon County Jail has lost touch with the realization that inmates are human beings. Sheriff Williamson, Superintendent Terry Durr, Assistant Warden Strayer, Shift Commanders Lt. Cain, Lt. Powell and Lt. Loftus and the Sergeants Carey, Guy, Clemons, Bueve, Kruger, Wallace, Hudgins, Smith, and Bennett are allegedly caretakers of the Jail. Inmates are treated grotesquely which is a complete slap in the face and a breakdown of the American way. The administration and staff allegedly make sure that complaints and grievances which would ultimately cause the Jail conflict are never allowed to be answered in writing or in person. Copies are not allowed to be made. This violates due process, according to the plaintiff. Many times, plaintiff has written grievances regarding "many of these claims" but has been denied responses and copies of the complaints. Officers allegedly are reprimanded or suspended if they allow copies or notarized paperwork of certain grievances about inept and unprofessional or inhumane treatment of inmates at the Jail. The administration allegedly oversees, condones, and allows this disruption of due process to protect themselves from scrutiny.

Plaintiff requests the following relief: to see that proper changes in the Jail administration be made to ensure that none of the civil rights and health code violations keep happening. As the court deems necessary, relief from being forced to eat lunch and dinner on the concrete floor. Plaintiff requests monetary relief for the months he had to sleep on the floor and would like larger living quarters and relief from being housed with two to five inmates in a one-man cell. He also would like monetary relief for the poor overall physical and mental treatment. Finally, he desires underclothes to be provided for the inmates.

The Defendants argue that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted as to any individual defendant, as there are no facts that establish they were personally responsible for the unconstitutional conditions of which plaintiff complains. Second, the Defendants argue that the facts as plead by plaintiff relating to the totality of conditions in the Jail, demonstrate that the Plaintiff has failed to raise a right to relief above the speculative ...

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