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Elijah Reid, # M-12485 v. M. Bundren (Badge No. 11667) and C/O Jones

February 7, 2013


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


Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center ("Pontiac"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose while Plaintiff was confined at Tamms Correctional Center ("Tamms"), which has since been closed. Plaintiff is serving a life sentence for murder. Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to excessive force, was subsequently denied medical treatment for his injuries, and was improperly punished as a result of a false disciplinary report.

Specifically, Plaintiff states that Defendant Bundren engaged in a longstanding pattern of harassment and threats against Plaintiff (Doc. 1, p 3). On March 25, 2012, Defendants Bundren and Jones conducted a strip search of Plaintiff before placing him in handcuffs and leg irons to walk him to the shower. Defendant Bundren, while making vulgar comments to Plaintiff, clamped the handcuffs extremely tightly onto Plaintiff's wrists, causing him pain (Doc. 1, p. 4). After placing Plaintiff in leg irons, Defendants pushed him toward the shower, causing the leg irons to cut into his ankles. Once in the shower, Defendants pushed Plaintiff to the floor, and Defendant Bundren continued to taunt him (Doc. 1, p. 5). Defendants removed the leg irons, closed the shower door with Plaintiff inside, and then Defendant Bundren yanked Plaintiff's arms (still cuffed behind him) through the chuckhole. Defendant Bundren twisted the handcuffs, saying, "I told [you] that you were going to pay for what you did in Menard" (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff screamed out in pain, but Defendant Bundren told him to shut up and bent Plaintiff's hand backwards. When Defendant Bundren removed the cuffs, he told Plaintiff, "you got blood on my handcuffs" (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). Defendant Jones, who had been present the entire time, laughed, and both Defendants walked away. Plaintiff realized that his ankles and wrists were bleeding, and his wrists were swollen, purplish, and extremely painful. Plaintiff's calls for a nurse were unanswered.

Thirty minutes later, Defendant Jones returned with another officer, and told Plaintiff that Defendant Bundren reported that Plaintiff had spit in his eye and Plaintiff would have to wear a "spit mask" (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff denied spitting on Defendant Bundren, and Defendant Jones admitted that Plaintiff was right, but said he didn't see anything. Plaintiff showed Defendant Jones his injuries and asked to see a nurse. After first promising to get medical help, Defendant Jones informed Plaintiff at lunch that he would not send a nurse, even when Plaintiff told him that he was in pain and the swelling had increased (Doc. 1, p. 7).

Plaintiff was charged with the offense of "102: assaulting any person," and requested Defendant Jones as a witness (Doc. 1, p. 7). When interviewed, Defendant Jones stated that he did not see whether Defendant Bundren was assaulted. Plaintiff was found guilty and disciplined with one year segregation, one year C-grade and loss of commissary privileges, and loss of one year of good conduct credit (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff notes, however, that he is not entitled to good time because he is sentenced to serve a term of natural life without the possibility of parole.

Plaintiff invokes this Court's supplemental jurisdiction to consider his state law battery claim along with his constitutional claims. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as damages.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint. Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff has articulated a colorable federal cause of action against Defendants Bundren and Jones for excessive force (Count 1), for deliberate indifference to medical needs (Count 2), and for battery (Count 3). However, Plaintiff's allegation that he was deprived of a liberty interest without due process as a result of the false disciplinary report (Count 4) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and shall be dismissed for the following reasons.

In Hanrahan v. Lane, 747 F.2d 1137, 1140-41 (7th Cir. 1984), the Seventh Circuit held that the filing of false disciplinary charges by a correctional officer does not state a Fourteenth Amendment claim when the accused inmate is given a subsequent hearing on those charges in which the inmate is afforded the procedural protections outlined in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974) (advance written notice of the charge, right to appear before the hearing panel, the right to call witnesses if prison security allows, and a written statement of the reasons for the discipline imposed). The Seventh Circuit reasoned that prisoners have a right "to be free from arbitrary actions of prison officials," Hanrahan, 747 F.2dat 1140, but determined that the procedural protections outlined in Wolff provided the appropriate protection against arbitrary actions taken by a correctional officer such as issuing the inmate a fabricated conduct violation.

In the instant complaint, Plaintiff states that he was falsely accused of assault by Defendant Bundren. He does not indicate that he was denied any of the procedural protections described in Wolff. To the contrary, his witness (Defendant Jones) was interviewed and Defendant Jones' statement was considered by the disciplinary hearing committee.

Unfortunately for Plaintiff, Defendant Jones' testimony did not help his defense (See Doc. 1, pp. 13-14). When an inmate is given a proper hearing, yet is found guilty of a false charge, he has no constitutional claim so long as the decision of the disciplinary hearing board was supported by "some evidence." Black v. Lane, 22 F.3d 1395, 1402 (7th Cir. 1994). The testimony of the accusing officer is sufficient to meet this standard. On the other hand, if Plaintiff was not afforded the procedural protections in Wolff, he still may not have an actionable claim.

To sustain a claim under § 1983 for a procedural due process violation, an inmate must show that the state deprived him of a constitutionally protected interest in "life, liberty, or property" without due process of law. Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 125 (1990). An inmate has a due process liberty interest in being in the general prison population only if the conditions of his or her disciplinary confinement impose "atypical and significant hardship[s] . . . in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995). For prisoners whose punishment includes being put in disciplinary segregation, under Sandin, "the key comparison is between disciplinary segregation and nondisciplinary segregation rather than between disciplinary segregation and the general prison population." Wagner v. Hanks, 128 F.3d 1173, 1175 (7th Cir. 1997).

The Seventh Circuit has recently elaborated two elements for determining whether disciplinary segregation conditions impose atypical and significant hardships: "the combined import of the duration of the segregative confinement and the conditions endured by the prisoner during that period." Marion v. Columbia Corr. Inst., 559 F.3d 693, 697-98 (7th Cir. 2009) (emphasis in original).

The first prong of this two-part analysis focuses solely on the duration of disciplinary segregation. For relatively short periods of disciplinary segregation, inquiry into specific conditions of confinement is unnecessary. See Lekas v. Briley, 405 F.3d 602, 612 (7th Cir. 2005) (56 days); Thomas v. Ramos, 130 F.3d 754, 761 (7th Cir. 1997) (70 days) ("a relatively short period when one considers his 12 year prison sentence"). In these cases, the short duration of the disciplinary segregation forecloses any due process liberty interest regardless of the conditions. See Marion, 559 F.3d at 698 ("we have affirmed dismissal without requiring a factual inquiry into the conditions of confinement").

In Plaintiff's case, he was sentenced to one year of disciplinary segregation. This would often be a long enough period of time to require factual inquiry into the conditions of segregation. However, in light of Plaintiff's life sentence, even a one year period is relatively short.*fn1 Further, in an inquiry as to whether the segregation conditions faced by Plaintiff were unusually harsh compared to his normal prison environment, see Sandin v. Connor, 515 U.S. 472, 486 (1995), the fact that Plaintiff was confined in Tamms and now has been transferred to Pontiac cannot be ignored. The general conditions of confinement at Tamms, which until its closure was the only state "supermax" facility, have been found to ...

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