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Santana v. Kempfer

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

December 18, 2013

JUAN SANTANA, # R-59214, Plaintiff,
v.
K. KEMPFER, R. HARRINGTON, T. VEATH, J. HART, SGT. SCHURTZ, SGT. PELKER, and UNKNOWN PARTIES, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is serving a life sentence for murder as well as a 30-year sentence for arson. Plaintiff claims that Defendants held him in two segregation cells that were unfit for habitation, and that he was denied due process protections in a disciplinary hearing.

Plaintiff's complaint explains that on August 21, 2013, he was transferred from Stateville Correctional Center to Menard, and was held "under investigation in punitive segregation" in cell number 407, wing N-2, for the first month of his stay (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 8). The cell was filthy and had an overwhelming odor of urine and mold; the walls were moldy and the floor was covered with paint chips that had peeled off the walls. Plaintiff's mattress had huge yellow stains that smelled like urine and mold. The temperatures were in the 90-100 degree range and the cell had a steel mesh door, making it excessively hot. A large and very loud industrial fan was in operation around the clock near Plaintiff's cell, making it nearly impossible to sleep and providing little relief from the heat (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7).

Plaintiff asked several John Doe Correctional Officers for cleaning supplies, a new mattress and/or linens to cover the filthy mattress, and hygiene supplies. Despite these requests, Plaintiff spent the first nine days in the cell without any soap, toilet tissue, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, or his fan. He was forced to use two socks instead of toilet paper and had no soap to wash them out. Plaintiff developed vomiting, headaches, insomnia, ringing in his ears, and an itching skin rash because of these conditions. Although he received some personal hygiene items and his fan after nine days, it appears that he was never provided with any linens or cleaning supplies for the cell, nor was the mattress replaced. He wrote several requests to be seen during sick call, and asked several John Doe Officers to help him get medical attention, but never received a medical visit for the 30 days he was in this cell (Doc. 1, p. 7).

On September 20, 2013, Plaintiff appeared before the adjustment committee (Defendants Veath and Hart) for a hearing on a disciplinary charge that Plaintiff was a member of a security threat group (Doc. 1, pp. 8, 13). Plaintiff maintained he was not a gang member, attempted to present a written statement in his defense, and requested two witnesses. However, Defendant Veath did not call Plaintiff's witnesses and refused to accept his written statement. Before the hearing ended, Plaintiff asked Defendant Veath to help him correct the conditions in his cell, and to help him get medical care; both requests were refused.

Relying on the statement of an officer and two confidential informants, Defendants Veath and Hart found Plaintiff guilty of the charge. Defendant Harrington approved their findings. He was punished with three months in segregation, among other sanctions (Doc. 1, p. 13). Plaintiff was moved to cell number 639 in wing N-2 on September 21, 2013. This cell was in worse condition than the first cell, and Plaintiff had to share the 40-square-foot space with another inmate. The walls appeared to be smeared with dried blood and feces, were moldy, and the paint was peeling (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff's mattress was stained and smelled of urine. The toilet was filthy and caked with waste.

On September 25, Plaintiff asked Defendant Kempfer for a new mattress, cleaning supplies, and linen; he responded with profanity and did nothing to help. On October 9, 2013, Plaintiff repeated these requests to Defendant Schurtz, who told him to ask the gallery officer. Plaintiff had already done this; Defendant Schurtz did nothing further. On November 1, 2013, Plaintiff asked Defendant Pelker for the same items but was ignored (Doc. 1, pp. 10). Later that day, Plaintiff asked a different officer (Wenzell, who is not a Defendant) for help; he responded by getting Plaintiff sheets and a blanket. Plaintiff filed three emergency grievances over the conditions, directed to Defendant Warden Harrington, but never got any response.

During his time in the second segregation cell, Plaintiff's health problems continued and grew worse. Plaintiff was finally seen by a nurse on November 14, 2013, and was given ointment for his rash, and Tylenol (Doc. 1, p. 9).

Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages (Doc. 1, p. 11).

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 claims, which shall receive further review:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against the Unknown Party (John Doe) Correctional Officers who worked on N-2 segregation, 4 Gallery between August 21 and September 21, 2013, for subjecting Plaintiff to unsanitary cell conditions in Cell No. 407 and denying his requests for personal hygiene supplies;

Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim against the Unknown Party (John Doe) Correctional Officers who worked on N-2 segregation, 4 Gallery between August 21 and September 21, 2013, for refusing Plaintiff's ...


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