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Charles E. Bramlett, K91341 v. Big Muddy River Correctional ) Center

October 14, 2011

CHARLES E. BRAMLETT, K91341, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BIG MUDDY RIVER CORRECTIONAL ) CENTER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Charles E. Bramlett, who is confined in the Big Muddy River Correctional Center after having been adjudicated a Sexually Dangerous Person, 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). 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 Plaintiff outlines four distinct incidents in which he claims his civil rights were violated. First, on approximately May 20, 2008, Defendant Carich, the administrator of the Sexually Dangerous Persons (SDP) treatment program, ordered Plaintiff to be placed in a cell with Inmate Shivers. Shivers had previously threatened to fight Plaintiff. At some point, Plaintiff refused to remain in the cell with Shivers. As a result, disciplinary charges were filed against Plaintiff, and Plaintiff was placed in segregation. A review of Plaintiff's Exhibits A through C (Doc. 1-1, p. 1-10) shows that Plaintiff was to have been released from segregation and placed back with Shivers, but Plaintiff refused to go back on at least three occasions during June, 2008. This resulted in additional disciplinary charges. Plaintiff sought protective custody from Defendant Shular (of Internal Affairs), but learned that this was not available for SDP inmates. Plaintiff's grievance over the discipline was denied by the Administrative Review Board (ARB) on January 20, 2009 (Doc. 1-1, p. 7).

A similar incident ensued in October 2008, after Defendant Carich placed Plaintiff in a cell with inmate Blake. Plaintiff and Blake had a history of conflict over Blake's sexual harassment of Plaintiff, which Plaintiff had reported to prison officials. Plaintiff believed that this report led to Blake's threats to fight Plaintiff. On a day when Blake made a specific threat to fight Plaintiff, Plaintiff reported this threat to a wing officer, Defendant Gwartney.*fn2 However, Defendant Gwartney wrote up Plaintiff for threatening Blake and took Plaintiff to segregation (Doc. 1, p. 5). A disciplinary ticket was issued to Plaintiff for threats and intimidation, and he was given one month in segregation after a hearing (Doc. 1-1, p. 11-15). Plaintiff claims the Adjustment Committee, Grievance Officers, Administrative Review Board, and the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) Director all refused to consider Plaintiff's statement in his defense, and refused to hear his witnesses (Doc. 1, p. 5).

The third incident occurred on August 1, 2009, when Defendant John Doe Gate Guard refused to allow Plaintiff's two sisters to visit him, despite the fact they had been on Plaintiff's approved visitor list since April 26, 2001. Plaintiff states that Defendant John Doe Gate Guard did not have a copy of his visitor list. Plaintiff's mother was allowed in.

Finally, on approximately January 8, 2010, Defendant Butler searched through Plaintiff's stored legal boxes outside Plaintiff's presence and without Plaintiff's consent. Defendant Butler removed about two thirds of the items after concluding they were not true legal materials. Defendant Butler instructed Plaintiff to send the items home the same day or they would be destroyed, adding that if he did not have the money on the books to ship the material, Plaintiff would receive a disciplinary ticket. Plaintiff paid to have the property shipped. He filed a grievance over this action, which was rejected. Plaintiff's witnesses to the incident were never heard during the grievance process.

In addition to compensatory damages, Plaintiff requests injunctive relief, including release from confinement in the SDP program.

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 - Failure to Protect

Persons civilly committed under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act (725 ILL. COMP. STAT. 205/0.01 et seq.) are deemed to be pretrial detainees, not convicted prisoners. See Allison v. Snyder, 332 F.3d 1076, 1078-79 (7th Cir. 2003). Generally, confinement of pretrial detainees may not be punitive, because "under the Due Process Clause, a detainee may not be punished prior to an adjudication of guilt." Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). Thus, conditions of pretrial confinement must be "reasonably related to a legitimate governmental objective." Id. at 539. See also Murphy v. Walker, 51 F.3d 714, 717-18 (7th Cir. 1995); Brownell v. Figel, 950 F.2d 1285, 1289 (7th Cir. 1991). Although claims brought pursuant to § 1983, when involving detainees, 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) (quoting Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 845 n. 2 (7th Cir. 1999)).

Corrections officials have a duty to protect pretrial detainees from violence caused by other inmates. See Borello v. Allison, 446 F.3d 742, 747 (7th Cir. 2006). However, liability for an injury attaches only where the officer was aware that the detainee faced "a substantial risk of serious harm" and "disregard[ed] that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." Id. (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994)). Thus, to prevail on a claim for failure to protect, Plaintiff must show that he was at risk of harm and that the Defendants knew about this risk and disregarded it. In other words, Plaintiff must show that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his plight. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 777 (7th Cir. 2008); Pinkston v. Madry, 440 F.3d 879, 889 (7th Cir. 2006). In order to recover damages, a plaintiff also must prove that prison officials were aware of a specific, impending, and substantial threat to his safety, often by showing that he complained to prison officials about a specific threat to his safety. Pope v. Shafer, 86 F.3d 90, 92 (7th Cir. 1996). Where a plaintiff has been the victim of an attack, the defendants had to know that there was a substantial risk that those who attacked the plaintiff would do so, yet failed to take any action. See Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 733-34 (7th Cir. 2001). However, conduct that amounts to negligence or inadvertence is not enough to state a claim. Pinkston, 440 F.3d at 889, citing Watts v. Laurent, 774 F.2d 168, 172 (7th Cir. 1985).

In Plaintiff's case, he communicated to Defendant Carich and Defendant Gwartney the specific threats made by both of his cellmates. However, Defendant Carich refused to change the housing assignments. Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges he was told by Defendant Shular, of Internal Affairs, that no protective custody was available to inmates in the SDP program. Had either inmate subsequently attacked Plaintiff, his claim for failure to protect would merit further review. However, Plaintiff never suffered actual physical harm, because Plaintiff was placed in segregation on disciplinary charges and in that manner was removed from Shivers and Blake.

Although no compensatory damages are available in the absence of physical injury, the Supreme Court has recognized that an inmate may seek injunctive relief to prevent future harm. Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 33-34 (1993) ("a remedy for unsafe conditions need not await a tragic event"); see also Benefield v. McDowall, 241 F.3d 1267, 1272 (10th Cir. 2001). At the pleadings stage, Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged both that he faced an objective risk of ...


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