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Knox v. Rhodes

May 14, 2009

CHRISTOPHER KNOX, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KELLY RHODES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Christopher Knox, an inmate in the Tamms Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 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). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

Knox states that he is one of numerous mentally ill inmates who are, or who have been, incarcerated at Tamms. He asserts, both generally and specifically, that the extremely restrictive conditions at Tamms serve only to exacerbate his mental illness. He further alleges that the so-called mental health treatment he receives at Tamms is more akin to punishment than therapy and, as such, only serves to worsen his condition. Thus, he asserts that all defendants -- those who decide which inmates are housed at Tamms, as well as those charged with their care at Tamms -- have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

To determine whether an inmate's Eighth Amendment rights were violated by a deprivation, we examine the alleged violation both objectively and subjectively. See id. at 834, 114 S.Ct. 1970. "First, the deprivation alleged must be, objectively, sufficiently serious." Id. (quotation omitted). Second, the mental state of the prison official must have been "one of deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety." Id. (quotation omitted).

Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 733 (7th Cir. 2001).

It is beyond argument that mental health care constitutes a serious medical need. Id. at 734; Wellman v. Faulkner, 715 F.2d 269 (7th Cir. 1983). It is also fair to assume that the conditions described by Knox -- solitary confinement to an 80-square-foot concrete cell, strip searches, confinement to restraint chairs, lack of contact with family and friends -- could be detrimental to one's mental health, particularly to one already suffering from any degree of mental illness. Scarver v. Litscher, 434 F.3d 972 (7th Cir. 2006) (acknowledging that conditions at Supermax prison in Wisconsin could aggravate symptoms of inmates' mental illnesses).*fn2 Whether each of the Defendants possesses the requisite mental intent is a subjective inquiry that cannot be determined at this stage of the litigation; thus, the action survives review under § 1915A except as discussed in the next section.

CLAIMS OF OTHER PLAINTIFFS

Two other inmates -- Anthony Gay and Donnie White -- originally joined in filing this action, but they were subsequently dismissed on their respective motions (see Docs. 6-8). In the complaint, paragraphs 73-86 relate only to Gay, while paragraphs 87-97 relate only to White. Because these two plaintiffs have withdrawn from the action, the allegations contained in these paragraphs (Doc. 1, pp. 26-30, ...


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