United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.
On September 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, while he was an inmate at the Centralia Correctional Center ("Centralia"). His claims arose from events that occurred while he was previously imprisoned at Shawnee Correctional Center ("Shawnee"). Specifically, he claims that he was beaten by correctional officers at Shawnee in retaliation for his successful challenge to a prison disciplinary charge. On October 3, 2014, soon after he filed the action, Plaintiff was released from prison (Docs. 5, 6).
In lieu of a statement of claim, Plaintiff attaches and incorporates a prison grievance form dated September 11, 2014(Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). He states that on July 18, 2014, while he was in segregation, he asked Defendant Jeffords and the John Doe Officer to summon a mental health counselor for him. They refused to get any help for Plaintiff, despite his repeated demands over several hours. Plaintiff has a "documented mental health history" (Doc. 1, p. 7). Later, the two officers dragged Plaintiff by his shirt to a holding cell, where they dropped him on the floor and began to kick and beat him on his legs, abdomen, and back. While Plaintiff lay face-down, the John Doe Officer placed handcuffs on Plaintiff's wrists behind his back, then stepped on the cuffs to force them on as tightly as possible, cutting off Plaintiff's circulation. Defendant Jeffords stepped on the side of Plaintiff's face and head, placing his weight on Plaintiff while the other Defendant pulled Plaintiff's hands up and away from his body. They would not stop this torture until Plaintiff agreed to cease requesting mental health assistance. The officers then carried Plaintiff back to his cell, dropped him on the floor, and kicked him in the ribs and head before removing his cuffs. Plaintiff was bleeding and in severe pain. The other Unknown Defendant (the Jane Doe Correctional Officer) observed the beating from her station in the segregation control room, yet did nothing to intervene.
Plaintiff reported the incident in writing to the mental health supervisor. On July 21, 2014, he was released from segregation and his disciplinary ticket was expunged (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff asserts that the whole incident was an act of retaliation against him, engineered by several other officers who are not named as Defendants in this lawsuit (Swalls, Lanarter, Quigley, Robinson, Henderson, and Hamilton), in response to Plaintiff's successful challenge of a disciplinary report that had been the basis for his confinement in segregation (Doc. 1, p. 8). Assistant Warden Hilliard overturned that disciplinary action, but a week after he retired, the officers named above reinstated the charges and found Plaintiff guilty without any hearing. He was punished with two months in segregation and lost two months of good conduct credits.
Plaintiff requests a declaratory judgment and damages (Doc. 1, p. 6).
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, which shall receive further review:
Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Jeffords and the John Doe Correctional Officer Defendant for using excessive force against Plaintiff, and against the Jane Doe Correctional Officer Defendant for failing to intervene to stop the excessive use of force;
Count 2: Retaliation claim against Defendant Jeffords and the John Doe Correctional Officer Defendant, for assaulting and beating Plaintiff because he exercised his right to challenge the disciplinary action against him.
Count 1 - Excessive Force
The intentional use of excessive force by prison guards against an inmate without penological justification constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and is actionable under § 1983. See Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34 (2010); DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 619 (7th Cir. 2000). An inmate must show that an assault occurred and that "it was carried out maliciously and sadistically' rather than as part of a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline.'" Wilkins, 559 U.S. at 40 (citing Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6 (1992)). The complaint has adequately pled these factors.
In addition, an officer who witnesses the improper use of force against a prisoner can be found equally liable under the Eighth Amendment. Byrd v. Brishke, 466 F.2d 6, 11 (7th Cir. 1972) ("one who is given the badge of authority... may not ignore the duty imposed by his office and fail to stop other officers who summarily punish a third person in his presence or otherwise within his knowledge"); see also Lanigan v. Vill. of E. Hazel Crest, 110 F.3d 467, 477 (7th Cir. 1997); Yang v. Hardin, 37 F.3d 282, 285 (7th Cir. 1994) (collected cases); Archie v. City of Racine, 826 F.2d 480, 491 ...