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Jamal Shehadeh v. John Cox

July 14, 2011


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

# S-10300,


Plaintiff Jamal Shehadeh, an inmate in Logan Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on events that occurred while Plaintiff was housed at Vienna Correctional Center. Plaintiff is serving a ten year sentence for a drug offense. 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, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

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.

The Complaint

The following summary of facts is gleaned from Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (Doc. 13). Plaintiff was transferred to Vienna Correctional Center on November 10, 2010, and was housed on the second floor of Building 19. This 100-man dormitory had only two working toilets, which Plaintiff shared with approximately 80 to 115 other inmates. Many times, he was forced to wait for over an hour to use the toilet, which resulted in severe discomfort. The dormitory also had other health and safety problems, according to Plaintiff. The heat did not work and several windows were broken, exposing Plaintiff to near freezing temperatures for a ten-day period. He also claims there was black mold on the shower walls and ceilings, and asbestos insulation on the steam pipes, which exposed him to disease-causing mold spores and asbestos particles. Plaintiff alleges that after he complained about these conditions, he learned from Defendant David that Building 19 was not supposed to be housing offenders (Doc. 13, p. 4).

Plaintiff made numerous verbal and written complaints to various Defendants between November 10 and November 23, 2010. The prison staff working in the housing unit to whom he complained were Defendants Campbell, Howard, Felker, Suits, Allstad, David, Bates, and John Does 1 through 13. On November 19, he filed an emergency grievance with Defendant Cox, and wrote letters complaining of the conditions to Defendants Taylor and Quinn, to which they did not respond. On approximately November 27, he submitted grievances to Defendants Luce and Wiggs, which they denied, and which were later reviewed and denied by Defendant Benton.

Plaintiff also alleges he experienced retaliation for raising these complaints. Upon his arrival at Vienna, he spent approximately two weeks on the second floor of Building 19 in the conditions described above. The second floor is where new inmates are first housed before being moved to the third floor. On November 23, Plaintiff was moved to the third floor, where inmates are placed while waiting to be transferred to general population. However, after three days on the third floor, Plaintiff was moved back to the second floor, which he alleges "had never been done before" (Doc. 13, p.6). He further alleges that the second floor is "used to punish problem offenders since offenders [there] are denied the same priviledges [sic] as offenders in general population." Id.

On December 4, 2010, Plaintiff was moved from Building 19 into Housing Unit 5. The next day, he was assaulted by another inmate, and was unable to summon help from any prison staff member until nearly two hours after the assault. Plaintiff alleges that no staff members were near enough to his location to hear his and other inmates' calls for help. Plaintiff suffered a concussion and other injuries and spent two days in the prison hospital.

Finally, on December 22, 2010, Defendants Suits and Campbell put Plaintiff on a transfer bus to Lincoln, Illinois. While on the bus, Plaintiff was denied access to the restroom for six and a half hours except for one stop where he was allowed to urinate into a bucket in the presence of a female officer. Plaintiff claims he endured similar conditions during transfers on August 11, 2010, and November 10, 2010.

Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief (Doc. 4), declaratory relief, and damages. Discussion

Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into four (4) counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

Count 1 - Inadequate Conditions of Confinement

In a case involving conditions of confinement in a prison, two elements are required to establish violations of the Eighth Amendment's cruel and unusual punishments clause. First, an objective element requires a showing that the conditions deny the inmate "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities," creating an excessive risk to the inmate's health or safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). The second requirement is a subjective element -- establishing a defendant's culpable state of mind. Id.

Not all prison conditions trigger Eighth Amendment scrutiny -- only deprivations of basic human needs like food, medical care, sanitation, and physical safety. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981); see also Vinning-El v. Long, 482 F.3d 923, 924 (7th Cir. 2007); James v. Milwaukee Cnty., 956 F.2d 696, 699 (7th Cir. 1992). The objective component of a conditions claim focuses on the nature of the acts or practices alleged to constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Jackson v. Duckworth, 955 F.2d 21, 22 (7th Cir. 1992). The pertinent question is whether the conditions of confinement exceeded contemporary bounds of decency of a mature civilized society. Id. The condition must result in unquestioned and serious deprivations of basic human needs or deprive inmates of the ...

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