United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
JAMES E. DUNMORE, No. R64188, Plaintiff,
STEPHEN B. DUNCAN, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.
James E. Dunmore is currently incarcerated at the Lawrence Correctional Center in Sumner, Illinois. Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff Dunmore has brought a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated during a strip search and cell shakedown conducted by the Orange Crush Tactical Team at Lawrence in July 2014. Among the 104 named defendants are Donald Stolworthy, the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections; Joseph Yurkovich, the Chief of Operations for the Illinois Department of Corrections; and Stephen Duncan, the Warden of Lawrence. Dunmore has also named the corrections officers who were members of the Orange Crush teams assigned to search Lawrence, Menard, Illinois River and Big Muddy River correctional centers ( see Doc. 1, pp. 3-5). There is also an "Unknown Party" placeholder for members of the Orange Crush teams that Plaintiff could not identify before filing his complaint. Dunmore seeks injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.
This matter is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court shall review a "complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a government entity." During this preliminary review, the court "shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, " if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted" or if it "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief."
Dunmore is 76 years old and confined to a wheelchair. His housing unit at Lawrence was searched by a team of Orange Crush officers. Upon entering his housing wing, the officers began making loud noises and hitting their batons on the walls, tables, doors and railings. Two of the Orange Crush officers lined up in front of Dunmore's cell and told him to get "asshole naked!" (Doc. 1, p. 5). It took Dunmore a while to comply with the directive-presumably because he is wheelchair bound-so he was threatened with segregation. Plaintiff was then directed to spread his buttocks and lift up his genitals. The officer then ordered Plaintiff to use his hands to search his own mouth for contraband. When Plaintiff asked to wash his hands before touching his mouth, the officers yelled obscenities and again threatened segregation. Some of the officers watching the search were female, adding to Plaintiff's humiliation.
After the search was finished, the officers directed Dunmore to dress in pants, a shirt and boots, but did not permit him to put on underwear. Plaintiff was then handcuffed tightly and in a painful stress position, with his palms facing outward and his thumbs pointing upward. Again, obscenities were shouted and threats of segregation were made. Plaintiff and other inmates were directed to keep their backs to the officers and their heads down, as the officers hit their hands with their batons, chanting "punishing the Plaintiff" (Doc. 1, p. 6).
As the inmates were lined up, an Orange Crush officer grabbed Plaintiff by the back of the head and slammed Plaintiff's head into the back of the prisoner in front of him. The impact was so great that Plaintiff's spine was altered and a resulting bone fragment caused pain and numbness to radiate down Plaintiff's right arm and hand.
The inmates were lined up, each bent over with his head in contact with the next inmate's buttocks-which the Orange Crush referred to as "nuts to butts" (Doc. 1, p. 7). Officers threatened violence if they saw daylight between inmates as they all proceeded out of the housing unit. Inmates were also told not to ask for medical treatment, water, or to use the restroom, because those requests would be denied. They were told to "take it like men" if their cuffs were too tight-or they would be dragged to segregation (Doc. 1, p. 7).
As the line of inmates was leaving, Plaintiff was "violently yanked" out of line and taken to the shower area (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff was told to put his face to the wall, and he was left that way for hours-he urinated and defecated on himself. From time to time an Orange Crush officer would yell "This is punishment for all your sins." (Doc. 1, p. 7). Other officers laughed at Plaintiff and told him they did not care about the inmates in wheelchairs. Plaintiff sat, soiled, in the shower area for the rest of the day.
When Plaintiff returned to his cell, he found that it had been "tossed" (Doc. 1, p. 8). Non-contraband items were taken, including legal documents. Shakedown property receipts were not left, which Plaintiff asserts was part of a policy to keep secret the identities of the Orange Crush officers. When Plaintiff asked to speak to the warden, an officer laughed and told him that the warden knew what was occurring at the facility.
Plaintiff remained in pain after his head and neck injury, but his request for medical care was denied, even after he had returned to his cell. Officers merely told him to submit a grievance.
Similar searches were conducted by the Orange Crush at other institutions, Menard, Illinois River and Big Muddy River correctional centers. Dunmore asserts that both the strip search and movement of inmates were purposefully conducted in a humiliating manner. He also says that officers executed the shakedown procedures pursuant to a policy or practice that was implemented, overseen and encouraged by Department of Corrections' supervisors, " including Yurkovich and Duncan.
The Court will begin with a preliminary note concerning the handling of Orange Crush cases in the Southern District of Illinois. Dunmore's complaint here closely tracks the pleading in Ross v. Gossett, Case No. 15-cv-309-SMY-PMF, which was filed in this Court on March 19, 2015. The plaintiff in Ross is seeking injunctive relief and damages on behalf of himself and a class of prisoners that were subjected to similar strip searches while incarcerated at Lawrence and three other Illinois prisons during 2014. Should ...