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Owens v. Illinois Department of Corrections

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

July 1, 2013

JAMES OWENS, #K-83253, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT of CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He asserts claims against the current and former Directors of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC"), staff of the IDOC's Administrative Review Board ("ARB"), and various officials at three prisons where he was formerly confined: Hill Correctional Center ("Hill"), Big Muddy River Correctional Center ("BMRCC"), and Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"). Plaintiff is serving two 30-year sentences for two criminal sexual assault convictions.

Plaintiff claims that he has been denied hygiene supplies, clean clothing, and the ability to correspond with persons outside prison, some of which was in retaliation for his activity of filing grievances and lawsuits. He also complains that his prison trust fund money has been improperly confiscated. Recognizing that the incidents he complains of date back to 2006 through 2010, he has filed a "motion for leave to file late complaint" (Doc. 4).

The specific allegations of the complaint are as follows. Plaintiff was incarcerated at Hill from May 2006 until 2008 (Doc. 1, p. 4). In May 2006, Plaintiff was unable to purchase supplies from the commissary because his account had a negative balance. He alleges that Hill officials had "illegally confiscated all [his] state pay." Id. Plaintiff requested indigent supplies from Defendant Jefferson (counselor) and from the warden without success. His grievance over the confiscation of his funds was denied by Defendant Pampel (grievance officer), and the denial was maintained by Defendants Jackie Miller (ARB) and Walker (former IDOC Director). For the entire two-year period Plaintiff was incarcerated at Hill, the only hygiene supplies he received consisted of two razors, two bars of soap, one small stick of deodorant, one toothbrush, and less than two ounces of toothpaste. He received no denture cleaner, dental floss or "write-outs" (for personal correspondence) (Doc. 1, p. 5).

After his transfer to BMRCC, on May 9, 2008, he requested indigent supplies from Defendant John Doe #1 (clothing room supervisor). His request was denied because he was "not indigent" (Doc. 1, p. 5). He eventually received small amounts of toothpaste, deodorant, and laundry soap, but these were insufficient (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). Plaintiff's grievances to Defendant Miller (BMRCC counselor) yielded no response. Defendant Asbury (counselor) responded that Plaintiff was not considered indigent. Other grievances over the amounts of his supplies were denied by Defendants Sanders (grievance officer), Evans (warden), Benton (ARB), and Randle (former IDOC Director). During Plaintiff's time at BMRCC from May 2008 until June 2010, he was provided a maximum of one bar of soap, one toothbrush, one razor, one packet of laundry detergent and one tube of toothpaste per month. He was not given any deodorant, shampoo, denture cleaner, floss, or personal correspondence supplies (Doc. 1, p. 6).

On June 25, 2010, after being moved to Pinckneyville, Plaintiff requested indigent supplies but was told he was not on the "indigent list." Id. He filed a grievance, to which Defendant Lutz (counselor) replied that he must be without funds for 60 days in order to be placed on the list. Ultimately, the grievance was ruled moot on August 25, 2010, because he was on the indigent list by that time. However, Plaintiff filed another grievance complaining that as an indigent, he was given only two 0.6 ounce tubes of toothpaste per month, no shampoo, no deodorant, and no personal correspondence supplies (Doc. 1, p. 7).

Plaintiff asserts that the denial of hygiene and correspondence supplies has been "systemic and ongoing" since 2006 in the various institutions where he has been confined (Doc. 1, p. 10). Because Plaintiff suffers from periodontal gum disease, he claims the lack of adequate dental hygiene items (as well as inadequate dental care, which he does not detail here) has caused him to lose numerous teeth. Id.

Plaintiff further complains that while he was at Pinckneyville, he was on "C-Grade" status for approximately nine months, during which time he was not allowed to use the telephone to contact people outside prison. Because he could not purchase "write-outs"[1] and the prison refused to supply them with his indigent packets, he asserts he was denied his First Amendment right to maintain contact with persons in the outside world. This denial of correspondence supplies had continued for over 50 months, since Plaintiff's time at BMRCC (Doc. 1, pp. 37-38). Plaintiff's grievances over this issue were denied, with the final response noting in error that Plaintiff had been given supplies for correspondence with each indigent bag (Doc. 1, p. 36). While Plaintiff could get limited supplies of paper, envelopes and pen from the library, the use of those items was restricted to legal correspondence (Doc. 1, p. 7). It appears that Plaintiff's most recent grievance activity over this issue was in December 2010 (Doc. 1, p. 8).

In his motion for leave to file a late complaint, Plaintiff asserts that his inability to file the instant claims earlier was due to the refusal of prison officials to give him access to the law library or to his legal materials and research notes (Doc. 4). Plaintiff does not, however, seek to bring a claim for denial of access to the courts in the instant case. Instead, he has brought a separate action, Owens v. Illinois Department of Corrections, et al., Case No. 13-cv-594 (S.D. Ill. filed June 21, 2013), to pursue that claim.

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff has articulated the following colorable federal causes of action:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim for deprivation of basic hygiene supplies against:

A) Hill Defendants Jefferson and John Doe Warden of Hill;[2]

B) BMRCC Defendants John Doe #1 clothing officer, John Doe #2 counselor, Miller, Asbury, and Evans;

C) Pinckneyville Defendant Davis (warden).

Count 1 shall proceed against the Defendants to whom Plaintiff directed his requests for supplies, and against the wardens, who appear to have been responsible for determining what hygiene items ...


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