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Hempstead v. Davis

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 11, 2015

CALVIN HEMPSTEAD, No. B31386, Plaintiff,
v.
RANDY DAVIS, WARDEN LOVE, MAJOR B. CAMPBELL, LT. HARRISON, AUBREY EDWARDS, CHAD MYERS, B. HOLLOMAN, and C/O D. HARNER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Calvin Hempstead, an inmate currently housed in Pinckneyville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on the alleged failure of prison officials to protect him from his known enemies while he was housed at Vienna Correctional Center (Doc. 1).

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening. - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal. - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint -
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that "no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit." Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility. Id. at 557. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

The Complaint

According to the complaint, on three separate occasions between September 20, 2013, and December 17, 2013, Plaintiff informed prison officials that several inmates now housed along with Plaintiff at Vienna Correctional Center had attempted to kill him before they were all in prison, and that he feared for his life. Nothing was done to protect Plaintiff and he was repeatedly told that each time he refused to return to the general population he would lose good time credit (which would lengthen his time in prison), effectively forcing Plaintiff back into general population and harm's way. After each of the three pleas for protection, Plaintiff was physically attacked. It is not clear whether the prisoners identified as enemies were the ones who attacked Plaintiff, but at this early juncture that will be assumed to be the case.

Based on the allegations in the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to summarize the pro se action in a single, overarching claim:

Count 1: Defendants failed to protect Plaintiff from assault, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Discussion

The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects prisoners from being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. U.S.CONST., amend. VIII. See also Berry v. Peterman, 604 F.3d 435, 439 (7th Cir. 2010). Eighth Amendment protection extends to conditions of confinement that pose a substantial risk of serious harm, including health and safety. See Estate of Miller, ex rel. Bertram v. Tobiasz, 680 F.3d 984 (7th Cir. 2012). Accordingly, prison officials have a duty to protect prisoners "from violence at the hands of other inmates." See Washington v. LaPorte County Sheriff's Dep't, 306 F.3d 515, 517 (7th Cir. 2002). However, as a general matter, a prison official may be liable "only if he knows that inmates face a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994). That the officer had actual knowledge of impending harm can be inferred from circumstantial evidence. Id. at 842. Proving deliberate indifference requires more than a showing of negligent or even grossly negligent behavior. Id. at 835. Instead, the officer must have acted with the equivalent of criminal ...


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