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Harriss v. Bailey

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 27, 2016

RAY HARRIS, Plaintiff,


          Michael J. Reagan, Chief Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Ray Harris, an inmate in Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims Defendants conspired to serve a soy-based diet at Pinckneyville and make money from increased commissary sales. Plaintiff contends his consumption of soy has caused him to suffer medical problems and Defendants have been deliberately indifferent to the same. Plaintiff sues Suzann Bailey (food service administrator), John Baldwin (director), Ty Bates (deputy director), Jacqueline Lashbrook (prison warden), Mike Fisher (food service manager), Vipen Shah (prison doctor), and Larue Love (assistant warden) for monetary damages.[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 any reasonable person would find meritless. 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).

         Upon careful review of the Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated his constitutional rights by establishing a cost-saving policy of serving inmates a soy-based diet despite known negative health risks. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-8). Plaintiff further asserts Defendants acted in conspiracy to maintain a policy of serving a soy diet with the end goal of pocketing large profits. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-8). Plaintiff contends that since beginning the soy-based diet he has experienced a number of health issues. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff's health issues include severe constipation, extreme gas, severe stomach pains, fatigue, loss of circulation in his hands, and “other mental injuries.” (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         In “mid 2015, ” Plaintiff met with Doctor Shah and reported the following medical issues: (1) extreme gas; (2) bouts of constipation lasting 4 to 8 days; (3) ripped/torn anus; and (4) severe stomach pains. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff further reported he did not have these issues prior beginning the soy-based diet. Id. Doctor Shah directed Plaintiff to “stop crying like a baby and drink more water.” Id. Plaintiff then requested a thyroid hormone level check. Shah refused to perform the test, stating “Wexford don't allow that test. It's too expensive.” Id.

         Other IDOC officials ignored Plaintiff's complaints on the subject. Plaintiff spoke directly with Warden Lashbrook and Assistant Warden Love. (Doc. 1, p. 7). He was instructed, by either Lashbrook or Love, to stop eating the soy and/or buy more food from the commissary. (Doc. 1, p. 8). In September 2016, [2] Plaintiff filed a grievance. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff does not specify what, if any, response he received in relation to the September 2016 grievance. Further, Plaintiff provides no detail regarding the substance of the September 2016 grievance.

         Additionally, Plaintiff alleges Bailey, Baldwin, Lashbrook, Fisher, Love, and Bates implemented a policy whereby inmates at Pinckneyville are served an inadequate breakfast and rarely receive fresh fruit. (Doc. 1, p. 8). As a result, Plaintiff is fed less than 1800 calories a day and is suffering from “severe hunger pains” and other problems. Id. Plaintiff's requests for a higher calorie diet have generally been ignored. Id. On one occasion, in response to Plaintiff's complaints about the diet, Fisher told Plaintiff to eat everything on his plate so he wouldn't be so hungry. Id.


         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into 4 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 regarding their merit.

         Count 1-Defendants have been deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs by failing to treat the symptoms he attributes to his ongoing consumption of soy products, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         Count 2-Defendants violated Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights by serving a nutritionally deficient diet consisting of only 1800 calories per day, very little fruit and an inadequate breakfast.

         Count 3-Defendants subjected Plaintiff to unconstitutional conditions of confinement by implementing a soy-based diet policy, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         Count 4-Defendants conspired together to violate Plaintiff's rights by ...

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