United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHEAL J. REAGAN, District Judge.
Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at Pinkneyville Correctional Center ("Pinkneyville") serving an 11-year sentence, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendants have promulgated a meal plan and schedule at the prison that has deprived him of adequate nutrition, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. He has indicated he wishes to bring this case as a class action (Doc. 1, p. 1).
According to the complaint, Defendant Bryant (Pinckneyville Food Service Administrator) changed the former three-meals-per-day plan at Pinckneyville approximately 18 months ago. Under the current schedule, inmates are served only two meals each day - a "brunch" at 10:00 a.m., and dinner at 5:15 p.m. Thus, there is a 17 to 18 hour interval between the dinner meal and brunch on the following day. In addition, Plaintiff asserts that the food portions are undersized and consist of no more than 1200 calories per day. Defendants Spiller (Pinckneyville Warden), Godinez (Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections - "IDOC"), and Griswold (IDOC Food Administrator), had direct knowledge of Defendant Bryant's actions and approved of these changes. Plaintiff further claims that Defendant Godinez adopted this meal plan in an effort to save millions of dollars, and that Defendants Bryant and Spiller have omitted certain foods from inmates' meals and failed to fill their trays, in order to save money. The current meal plan is allegedly in violation of Department of Justice and F.D.A regulations.
As a result of the nutritionally inadequate meals and the many hours Plaintiff is forced to wait to eat between the evening dinner and the next day's "brunch, " Plaintiff has suffered a number of health problems. These include dizziness, loss of sleep, failure to comprehend while performing daily activities like reading, writing, or exercising; headaches, weight loss and loss of balance (Doc. 1, p. 5).
Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Godinez violated his First Amendment right to equal protection because prisoners in all other IDOC institutions are still fed three meals per day, while Pinkneyville inmates have been singled out to receive only the two nutritionally inadequate daily meals (Doc. 1, p. 7). In addition, Defendant Godinez made "falsified statements" that the "starvation" program would only apply to weekends. Id.
Plaintiff includes one other Defendant, Sherry Benton of the IDOC's Administrative Review Board ("ARB"). He claims that she "could have abolished" the two-day meal program but chose to allow it to continue (Doc. 1, p. 7). In a motion filed on November 6, 2014 (Doc. 7), Plaintiff requests to remove Defendant Benton as a party and substitute Leslie McCarty (also of the ARB) in her place. In the motion, Plaintiff states that Defendant Benton did not review or deny his grievance. He thus implies that his grievance was reviewed at the ARB level by Leslie McCarty.
As relief, Plaintiff seeks an injunction against Defendant Godinez to halt the "brunch program" meal plan. He also requests money damages (Doc. 1, p. 9).
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 a colorable Eighth Amendment claim (Count 1) against Defendants Godinez, Spiller, Bryant, and Griswold, for adopting and approving a meal schedule that has deprived Plaintiff of adequate nutrition and placed his health at risk. This claim shall proceed for further review.
However, Plaintiff's equal protection and "false statement" claims against Defendant Godinez (Count 2) shall be dismissed. Likewise, Plaintiff has no constitutional claim against the ARB staff (either Defendant Benton or Leslie McCarty) who ruled against Plaintiff in their review of his grievances (Count 3). Count 1 - Inadequate Nutrition
The Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment forbids unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, and punishment grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981) (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). Prison conditions that deprive inmates of basic human needs - food, medical care, sanitation, or physical safety - may violate the Eighth Amendment. Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346; see also James v. Milwaukee Cnty., 956 F.2d 696, 699 (7th Cir. 1992).
The denial of food is not a per se violation of the Eighth Amendment. Rather, a district court "must assess the amount and duration of the deprivation." Reed v. McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 853 (7th Cir. 1999). See generally Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 304 (1991) (it would be an Eighth Amendment violation to deny a prisoner an "identifiable human need such as food"); Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 734 (7th Cir. 2001) (withholding food from an inmate can, in some circumstances, satisfy the first Farmer prong); Berry v. Brady, 192 F.3d 504, 507 (5th Cir. 1998) (serving inmates only two meals per day may satisfy the Eighth Amendment if the meals are nutritionally adequate); Cunningham v. Jones, 567 F.2d 653, 669 (6th Cir. 1977), app. after remand, 667 F.2d 565 (1982) (feeding inmates only once a day for 15 days, would constitute cruel and unusual punishment only if it "deprive[s] the prisoners concerned... of sufficient food to maintain normal health."). Here, Plaintiff has alleged that the meals served at Pinckneyville are nutritionally deficient, which would satisfy the objective requirement of an Eighth Amendment claim. See McNeil v. Lane, 16 F.3d 123, 124 (7th Cir. 1994); see also Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1970); Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 302 (1991). Whether or not the meal plan violates Department of Justice or F.D.A. regulations is of no consequence; a regulatory violation does not amount to a constitutional violation.
The Eighth Amendment has a subjective component as well. In order to be found liable, a prison official must have been deliberately indifferent to an inmate's health. See, e.g., Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); Wilson, 501 U.S. at 303; Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); DelRaine v. Williford, 32 F.3d 1024, 1032 (7th Cir. 1994). The deliberate indifference standard is satisfied if the plaintiff shows that the defendant acted ...