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Craig Charles v. Frank Shaw

July 5, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge:


Craig Charles, a prisoner in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), has filed a pro se lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that Frank Shaw and Mark Hosey, the warden and assistant warden of Stateville Correctional Center; two correctional officers, Lt. Philip Michel and Sgt. Jon Wiles; and Tracey Engelson, a public service administrator, violated his Eighth Amendment rights. Defendants have filed a motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that Charles failed to exhaust administrative remedies on certain of his claims. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the motion.


Charles alleges that Michel, Wiles, and other unknown officers used excessive force against him and that all the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs and subjected him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The defendants argue that Charles failed to exhaust administrative remedies as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) with regard to the claims of excessive force and unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Michel and Wiles also argue that Charles failed to exhaust any claims against them.

Charles suffers from various medical ailments, including severe back pain. He was prescribed medication for these conditions while in the custody of the Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDOC). On February 3, 2009, Charles was transferred from the CCDOC to the IDOC's Northern Reception and Classification Center at Stateville. Upon arrival, medical staff screened Charles and prescribed the needed medication to treat his conditions. Despite this, Charles did not receive the medication when transferred to a cell unit. He alleges that he made several requests for the medication but was repeatedly ignored.

On February 10, 2009, Charles woke up with severe back pains. He requested the aid of a correctional officer. His encounter with the officer resulted in an exchange of profanity. Charles alleges that the officer left and then returned moments later with Michel, Wiles (to whom Charles refers as "The Sgt."), and other officers, who also engaged in an exchange of profanity with Charles. Charles alleges that Michel stated, "fuck him he want to be an asshole and complain all the time put his ass in cell 309 and let him freeze his ass off," opened the chuck-hole of Charles' cell to spray him with mace, and, together with Wiles and other officers, kicked and punched Charles and then dragged him to another cell. Am. Compl. ¶ 28. Charles alleges that cell 309 had a broken light and window and that he was not provided with a blanket when outside temperatures were below zero.

On February 10, 2009, Charles filed what he termed an "emergency" grievance complaining about the excessive force, the conditions of his confinement, and the denial of his medication. Am. Compl., Ex. 1. He received no response. Charles filed another emergency grievance on February 28, 2009, complaining about indifference to his medical needs. Id., Ex. 2. The IDOC responded to the February 28 grievance by stating that Charles had received some medication and would receive the rest in a few days. Charles then appealed to the Administrative Review Board (ARB).

The defendants concede that Charles exhausted administrative remedies regarding the claim of denial of medical care contained in his February 28 grievance. Defs.' Summ. J. Mem. at 6. Their motion for partial summary judgment is focused on Charles' claim of excessive force and his claim that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement following his transfer to cell 309. Defendants have offered no evidence, however, that the IDOC ever responded to Charles' February 10 grievance, the existence of which defendants do not deny in their answer to the complaint. Defs.' Answer at 7. Charles has offered evidence that he sent letters to the ARB and the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) asking for a status update to his February 10 grievance. See Pl.'s Exs. 9-14. In at least one of these letters, dated April 26, 2009, Charles specifically referred to the February 10 grievance. See Pl.'s Ex. 9.


Defendants argue that Charles failed to exhaust administrative remedies regarding his claims of excessive force and unconstitutional conditions of confinement and that Michel and Wiles should be dismissed from the lawsuit. The latter argument is not entirely clear, but it appears that defendants contend that the Court should dismiss Michel and Wiles from the lawsuit because Charles did not specifically name them in any grievance.

Summary judgment is appropriate only if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party shows that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must draw reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See, e.g., Ault v. Speicher, 634 F.3d 942, 945 (7th Cir. 2011). Once the moving party informs the court of the basis for its motion and identifies the portions of those pleadings and supporting documents which it believes demonstrate an absence of a genuine issue of material fact, then the non-moving party bears the burden to demonstrate the issue of material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).

Under the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), a prisoner may not file a suit concerning conditions in his prison or jail until he has exhausted available administrative remedies in accordance with the institution's procedural rules. 42 U.S.C.A. § 1997e(a); see Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88-90 (2006). Exhaustion means "'using all steps the agency holds out, and doing so properly (so that the agency addresses the issues on the merits).'" Id. at 90 (quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024 (7th Cir. 2002)). Failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense on which the defendant bears the burden of proof. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 212 (2007); Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 686 (7th Cir. 2006).

The grievance process for IDOC prisoners includes as many as five levels of review. A prisoner typically first submits an informal grievance to his counselor. 20 Ill.

Admin. Code § 504.810(a). If the prisoner is not satisfied with the counselor's decision, he may submit a formal grievance to a grievance officer, within sixty days of the incident giving rise to the grievance. Id. The grievance officer conducts an investigation and submits a recommendation to the CAO. Id. § 504.830(d). IDOC regulations provide that when reasonably feasible, the CAO is to advise the prisoner in writing of his decision within two months after receipt of the grievance. Id. The prisoner may appeal the CAO's decision to the Director of the IDOC within 30 days. Id. § 504.850(a). The Director refers the matter to the ARB, which in turn submits a recommended decision to the ...

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