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Corwin v. Madison County Jail

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

December 4, 2014

CHRISTOPHER CORWIN, Plaintiff,
v.
MADISON COUNTY JAIL, JOHN HECK, MICHAEL HARE, NURSE, Defendants.

MERIT REVIEW OPINION

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, District Judge.

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and incarcerated in Graham Correctional Center, pursues claims for violations of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment related to his incarceration at Madison County Jail. The case is before the Court for a merit review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915A. In reviewing the Complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 649 (7th Cir. 2013). However, conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Enough facts must be provided to "state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Alexander v. U.S., 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoted citation omitted).

ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff alleges that officials at the Madison County Jail refused to provide him with prescribed medication, cleaning supplies necessary to prevent the spread of an infectious disease, access to the law library, and recreational privileges. Plaintiff also alleges that he was exposed to raw sewage in backed-up drains, causing him to suffer from migraine headaches.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff alleges violations of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment for inadequate medical care, conditions of confinement, and denial of access to the courts. In a prison context, a prison official is liable only when the official acts with deliberate indifference towards inmate health or safety, resulting in a denial of the "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Deliberate indifference means "the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837.

Denial of Prescription Medications

For claims involving medical care, prison officials must act with deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). Plaintiff alleges that he requested his prescription medications from Defendants John Heck and the nurse (identity unknown), that his prescriptions were verified by the pharmacy and that said defendants were instructed to provide the medication to Plaintiff, but failed to do so. Further, Plaintiff's requests to speak with a supervisor were denied. Though the denial of prescription medication can give rise to a constitutional claim for deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must provide "evidence that the failure caused injury or a serious risk of injury." Jackson v. Pollion, 733 F.3d 786, 790 (7th Cir. 2013). "[T]here is no tort-common law, statutory, or constitutional-without injury, actual or at least probabilistic." Id . Plaintiff does not allege that he suffered any harm as a result of the denial of his medications, and no facts exist from which the Court can so infer. Plaintiff is given leave to plead additional facts, if any exist, regarding the harm or injury he suffered as a result of the denial of medication.

Conditions of Confinement

Plaintiff alleges that he was denied adequate cleaning supplies for shaving razors shared with other inmates. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that another inmate with whom he and other inmates share shaving razors had been diagnosed with Hepatitis-C, an infectious disease. Plaintiff requested, and was denied, a watered-down bleach solution he intended to use to clean the shaving razors. "[A]llegations that a prison official knowingly exposed an inmate to an infectious disease that might cause him future harm states a claim of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need." Rushing v. Gerst, No. CIV. 10-507-JPG, 2011 WL 721519, at *2 (S.D. Ill. Feb. 23, 2011) (citing Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 35 (1993)). Though Plaintiff has not alleged any current harm related to the shaving razors allegation, a prison official may not be "deliberately indifferent to the exposure of inmates to a serious, communicable disease on the ground that the complaining inmate shows no serious current symptoms." Helling, 509 U.S. at 34. Therefore, the Court cannot rule out a constitutional claim for deliberate indifference related to the shaving razors.

Plaintiff also alleges that raw sewage was backed up in the drains at the jail and created such an odor that he suffered migraine headaches as a result. Potentially, this condition could rise to a constitutional violation, though Plaintiff has provided little detail concerning the nature and severity of this condition at the jail. Plaintiff is given leave to plead additional facts with respect to this issue.

Access to Courts

Plaintiff alleges that his scheduled trip to the prison law library did not happen and he was not able to conduct legal research related to his case. "[T]he mere denial of access to a prison law library or to other legal materials is not itself a violation of a prisoner's rights." Marshall v. Knight, 445 F.3d 965, 968 (7th Cir. 2006). The Plaintiff has a right of access to the courts, not the law library, and, at a minimum, must plead "the connection between the alleged denial of access to legal materials and an inability to pursue a legitimate challenge to a conviction, sentence, or prison conditions." Id . The successful filing of a complaint is not dispositive, rather the relevant inquiry is whether the "denial of access to legal materials caused a potentially meritorious claim to fail." Id. at 969. Plaintiff has not alleged any facts that show a connection between the denial of access to the law library and an inability to ...


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