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Carter v. Walker

January 16, 2009

DERRICK CARTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROGER E. WALKER, JR., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert U. S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

GILBERT, District Judge

Plaintiff, an inmate at the Pinckneyville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks injunctive and monetary relief for alleged violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. 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 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). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007)

THE COMPLAINT

For Count 1 of his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on February 11, 2008, he was given a food tray for the evening (4:45 p.m.) meal that contained: (1) two pieces of stale wheat bread; (2) a small portion of vegetables; (3) three teaspoons of "slop"; (4) a half-pint of pineapple drink; and (5) an unsealed package of orange sherbert. Based on these allegations, Plaintiff claims that Defendants Mahlandt and Austin violated his Eighth Amendment rights by providing him inadequate food.

For Count 2 of his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on February 29, 2008, Defendant McLain gave him a broom and dust pan for the purpose of cleaning his cell. When Plaintiff asked about being given a mop and disinfectant, Defendant McLain allegedly responded in a vulgar manner indicating that the prison did not have to provide inmates anything. Plaintiff further alleges that ten days earlier - on February 19, 2008 - he had complained to Defendants Austin and Hartline about the lack of a mop and disinfectant. Defendant Austin responded by ultimately directing that Plaintiff be provided with these items. Based on these allegations, Plaintiff claims that Defendants McLain, Austin, and Hartline violated his Eighth Amendment rights concerning his living conditions.

Plaintiff also claims that he has been deprived Equal Protection of the law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

DISCUSSION

Count 1 of Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. To establish a violation of the Eighth Amendment, a prisoner must prove two elements: (1) the deprivation alleged is sufficiently serious such that it resulted in the "denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities" and (2) prison officials knew of a substantial risk to the prisoner but failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the harm from occurring. Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 845 (7th Cir. 1999) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). In some circumstances, a prisoner's claim that he was denied food may satisfy the first element but, as the Seventh Circuit has held, the denial of food is not a per se violation of the Eighth Amendment. Rather, a district court "must assess the amount and duration of the deprivation." Reed v. McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 853 (7th Cir. 1999). See generally Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 304 (1991) (it would be an Eighth Amendment violation to deny a prisoner of an "identifiable human need such as food"); Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 734 (7th Cir. 2001) (withholding food from an inmate can, in some circumstances, satisfy the first Farmer prong); Talib v. Gilley, 138 F.3d 211, 214 n. 3 (5th Cir. 1998) (noting that denial of one out of every nine meals is not a constitutional violation; Cooper v. Sheriff of Lubbock County, 929 F.2d 1078 (5th Cir. 1991) (failure to feed a prisoner for twelve days unconstitutional); Cunningham v. Jones, 567 F.2d 653, 669 (6th Cir. 1977), ...


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