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Slowick v. Walker

March 23, 2009

BRIAN SLOWICK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROGER E. WALKER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate at the Shawnee Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks injunctive and monetary relief foralleged violations of his rights under the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process clause. 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

Plaintiff alleges that on February 19, 2008, while confined at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, the "assigned medical staff" was distributing medications at approximately 11pm, but bypassed Plaintiff's cell and, therefore, Plaintiff did not receive his "routine" medications (Clonopin, Trazenol, and Basilin). After Plaintiff repeatedly requested to see a lieutenant or a member of the medical staff, John Doe #1 escorted Plaintiff to "punitive segregation" where Plaintiff was placed on suicide watch. Plaintiff states that he asked Defendants John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 why he was being held in punitive segregation, but they responded that they were just following orders. It appears that Dr. Wallace came to see Plaintiff in punitive segregation, but Dr. Wallace told Plaintiff he could not be released yet because Plaintiff had not been held long enough in punitive segregation. Plaintiff was confined on punitive segregation for 3 consecutive days during which he was denied clothing, a mattress, bedding, eating utensils, and toilet paper. Plaintiff claims that he was denied Due Process of law, that the conditions in "punitive segregation" violated his Eighth Amendment rights, and that he was denied adequate medical treatment (i.e., not given his medication on February 19).

DISCUSSION

A. Due Process Claim

When a plaintiff brings an action under § 1983 for procedural due process violations, he must show that the state deprived him of a constitutionally protected interest in "life, liberty, or property" without due process of law. Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 125 (1990). An inmate has a due process liberty interest in being in the general prison population only if the conditions of his or her confinement impose "atypical and significant hardship...in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995). The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has adopted an extremely stringent interpretation of Sandin. In this Circuit, a prisoner in disciplinary segregation at a state prison has a liberty interest in remaining in the general prison population only if the conditions under which he or she is confined are substantially more restrictive than administrative segregation at the most secure prison in that state. Wagner v. Hanks, 128 F.3d 1173, 1175 (7th Cir. 1997). If the inmate is housed at the most restrictive prison in the state, he or she must show that disciplinary segregation there is substantially more restrictive than administrative segregation at that prison. Id. In the view of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, after Sandin "the right to litigate disciplinary confinements has become vanishingly small." Id. Indeed, "when the entire sanction is confinement in disciplinary segregation for a period that does not exceed the remaining term of the prisoner's incarceration, it is difficult to see how after Sandin it can be made the basis of a suit complaining about a deprivation of liberty." Id.

In the case currently before the Court, Plaintiff was sent to punitive segregation (or "suicide watch) for just 3 days. Nothing in the complaint or exhibits suggests that the conditions that he had to endure while in disciplinary segregation were substantially more restrictive than administrative segregation in the most secure ...


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