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Stewart v. Spiller

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 4, 2015

DEVON STEWART, No. R-59346, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS SPILLER, TY BATES, SUZANN BAILEY, SALVADORE GODINEZ, DR. SHAH, and ILLINOIS DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Devon Stewart is an inmate currently housed in Pinckneyville Correctional Center. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights with respect to being fed a soy-based diet, and being served only two meals per day (Doc. 1).

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

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, from 2007, when Plaintiff entered prison, to the present, he has been served a soy-based diet (replacing animal protein), which over time has led to health problems. More specifically, the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), Director Salvadore Godinez, Deputy Director Ty Bates, Food Service Administrator Suzann Bailey, Warden Spiller and Dr. Shah have individually and in conspiracy endangered Plaintiff's health. In 2014, when Plaintiff began experiencing the side effects of consuming too much soy- constipation, stomach pain, gas, loss of circulation, lethargy, and weight changes-the defendant officials did not alter the soy diet. Dr. Shah merely instructed Plaintiff to drink more water, and he refused to test Plaintiff's thyroid function. Plaintiff's administrative grievances went unanswered, as did a letter to Director Godinez. According to the complaint, in 2009 female inmates successfully sued the IDOC over their soy diet, and they are no longer served soy-based meals. In contrast, the soy content in the meals Plaintiff was served increased, even though the Defendants were by then aware of the health hazards posed by soy.

Plaintiff also takes issue with the elimination of breakfast at Pinckneyville-"the most important meal of the day." Inmates are now served dinner at around 4 p.m., and then eighteen hours later, at around 10 a.m., they are served lunch. As a result, inmates receive less than 1, 800 calories per day and must stave off hunger by buying food at the commissary. Plaintiff has experienced stomach pain, erratic weight changes and mental injuries. Plaintiff further asserts that the Defendants have conspired in order to allow unnamed high ranking officials to "pocket" the saving and commissary profits (estimated at $4, 460, 000 per year). Plaintiff has written to IDOC Food Service Administrator Suzann Bailey, presumably without result.

Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as a transfer to a prison outside the southern district of Illinois.

Based on the allegations in the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

Count 1: Defendants, individually and in conspiracy, have endangered Plaintiff's health by serving him a soy-based diet, in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
Count 2: Defendants, individually and in conspiracy, have endangered Plaintiff's health by serving him only two meals per day (less than 1, 800 calories), 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). Prison officials can also violate the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment when their conduct demonstrates "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A medical condition need not be life-threatening to be serious; rather, it can be a condition that would result in further significant injury or unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain if not treated. Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 620 (7th Cir. 2010).

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). Proving deliberate indifference requires more than a showing of negligent or even grossly negligent behavior; the ...


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