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Hill v. Gulash

July 16, 2009

HUBERT HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOSEPH GULASH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Hubert Hill, a pretrial detainee in the Madison County Jail, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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). 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.

CLAIM 1

Hill alleges that Defendant Gulash did not allow him to use the gym for certain periods of time, sometimes months in between, and told Hill that the dayroom was sufficient for his exercise needs.

In recent years we have not only acknowledged that a lack of exercise can rise to a constitutional violation, French v. Owens, 777 F.2d 1250, 1255 (7th Cir. 1986), but have concluded that "exercise is now regarded in many quarters as an indispensable component of preventive medicine." Anderson v. Romero, 72 F.3d 518, 528 (7th Cir. 1995). Given current norms, exercise is no longer considered an optional form of recreation, but is instead a necessary requirement for physical and mental well-being. Although we have recognized the value of exercise and its medicinal effects, we have also consistently held that short-term denials of exercise may be inevitable in the prison context and are not so detrimental as to constitute a constitutional deprivation. Thomas v. Ramos, 130 F.3d 754, 764 (7th Cir. 1997) (70-day denial permissible); Harris v. Fleming, 839 F.2d 1232, 1236 (7th Cir. 1988) (28 day denial not deprivation); Shelby County Jail Inmates v. Westlake, 798 F.2d 1085, 1089 (7th Cir. 1986) (limited recreational activities sufficient, where average prison stay was 10 days or less); Caldwell v. Miller, 790 F.2d 589, 601 (7th Cir. 1986) (no deprivation where exercise was denied for 30 days, but then allowed one hour indoor exercise for next 6 months); but see Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1432 (7th Cir. 1996) (viable constitutional claim where prisoner denied recreational opportunities for 7 weeks); Jamison-Bey v. Thieret, 867 F.2d 1046, 1048 (1989) (reversing summary judgment for prison officials where segregated prisoner denied exercise for 101 days).

Delaney v. DeTella, 256 F.3d 679, 683-84 (7th Cir. 2001).

In the case currently before the Court, Hill was not allowed to use the gym for short periods of time but was given access to the dayroom for his exercise needs. Since Hill was not deprived of all opportunities to exercise and engage in recreational activities, this does not constitute a constitutional deprivation. Thus, he has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and this claim will be dismissed.

CLAIM 2

Hill next alleges that the air temperature at the jail was kept so low on certain blocks that he and other prisoners had to wear thermal underwear during the summer months to keep warm. Prisoners that did not have thermal underwear had to wrap up in blankets that the jail offered.

As stated previously, Hill is a pretrial detainee. Although claims brought by detainees pursuant to § 1983 arise under the Fourteenth Amendment and not the Eighth Amendment, see Weiss v. Cooley, 230 F.3d 1027, 1032 (7th Cir. 2000), the Seventh Circuit has "found it convenient and entirely appropriate to apply the same standard to claims arising under the Fourteenth Amendment (detainees) and Eighth Amendment (convicted prisoners) without differentiation." Board v. Farnham, 394 F.3d 469, 478 (7th Cir. 2005).

Prisoners have an Eighth Amendment right to adequate shelter, including a right to protection from cold. See Dixon v. Godinez, 114 F.3d 640, 642 (7th Cir. 1997). To assess whether cold cell temperatures constitute cruel and unusual punishment, courts must consider factors including "the severity of the cold; its duration; whether the prisoner has alternative means to protect himself from the cold; the adequacy of such alternatives; as well as whether he must endure other uncomfortable conditions as well as cold." Id. at 644; see also Palmer v. Johnson, 193 F.3d 346 (5th Cir. 1999) (finding that exposure to extreme cold for 17 hours could constitute Eighth Amendment violation); Henderson v. DeRobertis, 940 F.2d 1055, 1058 (7th Cir. 1991) (finding that deprivation of blankets for four days in extreme cold could constitute Eighth Amendment violation). The cold need not present an imminent threat to the inmate's health to implicate the Eighth Amendment. See Dixon, 114 F.3d at 642.

Though the temperature of the jail may have been uncomfortable for Hill, he and other prisoners were offered blankets to protect themselves from the cold. This indicates that Gulash was not deliberately indifferent to the fact that the cells were cold and that the inmates had a right to adequate shelter. Given that Hill had access to blankets as an alternative means to protect ...


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