United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division
Demarlin Johnson, Plaintiff, Pro Se.
MERIT REVIEW ORDER
E. SHADID, District Judge.
proceeding pro se and presently incarcerated at Menard
Correctional Center, brings the present lawsuit pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging an Eighth Amendment violation for a
strip search conducted at Pontiac Correctional Center. The
matter comes before this Court for merit review under 28
U.S.C. §1915A. In reviewing the complaint, the Court takes
all 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) (internal citation omitted).
a male prisoner, alleges that Defendant, a male correctional
officer, ordered him to submit to a strip search while
Plaintiff was incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center
("Pontiac"). Plaintiff alleges the strip search was
conducted in a holding cell near the entrance to the cell
house. The search preceded Plaintiff's placement in
segregation for disciplinary reasons.
female correctional officers were present during this search.
Plaintiff alleges that one of the officers was stationed in
the "officer's cage" (where Plaintiff alleges a
guard is always stationed) and the other two female officers
were positioned in front of the officer's cage. Plaintiff
alleges he was ordered to take off his clothing and follow a
series of commands that included bending over and spreading
his buttocks, and lifting his genitals while in front of
these officers. Plaintiff alleges the cell house doors were
open during the search.
alleges the search was not performed for emergency purposes,
that he expressed his discomfort with disrobing in front of
female officers to Defendant, and that a private shower cell
was nearby that could have been used to conduct the search.
searches may violate the Eighth Amendment if "the strip
search in question was motivated by a desire to harass or
humiliate rather than by a legitimate justification, such as
the need for order and security in prisons." King v.
McCarty, 781 F.3d 889, 897 (7th Cir. 2015). A strip
search "conducted in a harassing manner intended to
humiliate and cause psychological pain" can also violate
the Constitution, regardless of whether a legitimate reason
for the search exists. Id.
does not allege that the duration of the strip search lasted
longer than was necessary, or that Defendant made any
sexually charged or demeaning comments while conducting the
search. While the cell house doors remained open, Plaintiff
does not suggest that he was forced to expose his naked body
to anyone other than the guards who were present. Instead,
Plaintiff alleges that the mere presence of female officers
during the search violated his constitutional rights.
Johnson v. Phelan, 69 F.3d 144 (7th Cir. 1995),
upheld a district court's dismissal of a male
detainee's claims where a female guard monitored the
detainee while he was naked. The Seventh Circuit noted that
nothing about the detainee's claims indicated that he was
subjected to the type of calculated harassment that qualifies
as unconstitutional punishment, and that legitimate reasons
(equal protection and Title VII) existed for the employment
of women in all aspects of prison operations. Id. at
Johnson, nothing here suggests that the female
guards' presence during Plaintiff's strip search was
anything more than routine prison administration. By
Plaintiff's own admission, a guard is always stationed in
the officer's cage. Plaintiff does not allege that the
other female guards did anything more than stand nearby
during the search. Plaintiff's allegations fail to allege
the type of conduct that has been found to state a claim
under the Eighth Amendment. Compare King,
781 F.3d at 893-94 (prisoner forced to wear a see-through
jumpsuit that exposed his buttocks for several hours during
transport to another facility while other prisoners were not
required to wear similar jumpsuits and guards responded to
prisoner's complaints with laughter); Mays v.
Springborn, 575 F.3d 643, 645 (7th Cir. 2009) (reversing
summary judgment for prison officials where prisoner strip
searched in front of other inmates by guards who did not
change latex gloves between searches of inmates and made
demeaning comments during searches); Canedy v.
Boardman, 16 F.3d 183, 184 (7th Cir. 1994) (male
prisoner strip searched by two female guards while ten (10)
male guards stood by and watched).
no emergency existed at the time of the search, Plaintiff
alleges that he was headed to segregation for a disciplinary
infraction. Accordingly, prison officials would have had a
legitimate reason for conducting the search and for the
presence of additional guards for security purposes.
Plaintiff has not alleged anything other than a routine strip
search on a prisoner who had already violated prison rules.