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Harmon v. Bailey

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 7, 2016

LARRY HARMON, #M-38016, Plaintiff,
v.
SUZANN BAILEY, JOHN BALDWIN, TY BATES, JACQUELINE LASHBROOK, and SW ANSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Larry Harmon, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"), brings this pro se action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claims that the Illinois Department of Corrections' ("IDOC") soy-based diet for prisoners violates his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. He alleges that the defendants have refused to alter the dietary offerings at the prison in spite of grievances and requests made by the inmates. Further, he claims that the Defendants are acting in conspiracy and in furtherance of a policy made by Defendant Ty Bates, with the objective of saving money and raising large profits. In connection with these claims, Plaintiff sues Suzann Bailey (food service administrator), John Baldwin (director of IDOC), Ty Bates (deputy director of IDOC), Jacqueline Lashbrook (warden of Pinckneyville) and Swanson (commissary owner) for monetary damages.

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner Complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). 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).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff Harmon brings a number of claims in his Complaint, all related to the provision of a soy diet (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). Harmon alleges that when he was admitted into IDOC in February 2016, IDOC had a pre-existing policy of serving a soy-based diet (Id. at 5). Shortly after his arrival, he noted severe medical symptoms that he associated with soy, including: extreme gas; 7-10 day bouts of constipation; severe daily headaches; bloody stool; a torn anus; chest pain; a swollen stomach; and heart burn (Id.). In April 2016 Harmon submitted a grievance about the soy diet. When he received no response, he also submitted a grievance to Defendant Baldwin seeking a change in the dietary offerings for inmates (Id.). At some point, Harmon also sent a grievance to Bates about the soy diet (Id.).

         Harmon alleges that Defendant Bates formulated the policy to serve soy and that Baldwin and Bailey act as co-conspirators in enforcing the policy (Id.). He further alleges that the conspiracy involves never responding to soy-related grievances and making several million dollars for each participant (Id.). Harmon asserts that the Defendants created and implemented the soy diet despite being aware of the serious risks of harm and irreparable injury that it posed to inmates (Id. at 6).

         Additionally, Harmon verbally notified Defendant Lashbrook of his complaints about the soy-diet, to which she responded that she did not care and that he could sue her if he wanted to (Id. at 5-6). Likewise, in a conversation with a commissary owner, the commissary owner simply told him to make up his mind to either eat soy or spend more to buy other foods (Id. at 6).

         Harmon also asserts that the provision of a soy diet is a due process violation because the Defendants have a written rule requiring them to provide nutritionally adequate meals and because the female inmates won a lawsuit against IDOC in 2009-2011, the defendants were aware of the adverse health consequences of a soy diet (Id.). Thus, continuing to serve male prisoners a soy diet is a due process violation (Id.). He seeks monetary damages for his injuries (Id. at 7).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se Complaint into the following enumerated claims. 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 regarding their merit.

Count 1:Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants for deliberate indifference in implementing a soy diet;
Count 2:Conspiracy claim against Defendants for the soy diet;
Count 3:Fourteenth Amendment claim against Defendants for failing to respond to grievances regarding the soy diet; and,
Count 4:Fourteenth Amendment claim against Defendants for failing to provide nutritionally adequate meals in compliance with ...

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