United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. ELLIS United States District Judge.
Omar Aguilar, an inmate challenging his time in and the
conditions he experienced while in segregation and
restrictive confinement at Stateville Correctional Center
(“Stateville”), brings suit against Defendants
Michael Lemke, Charles F. Best, Anna McBee, Tarry Williams,
Sergeant Johnson, Lieutenant Jenkins, Brenna George, Salvador
Godinez, and Kim Butler pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Aguilar brings a claim for due process
violations against Best, McBee, George, and Godinez (Count
a conditions of confinement claim against Lemke, Williams,
Johnson, Jenkins, and Godinez (Count II); and a First
Amendment free exercise of religion claim against Lemke,
Williams, Johnson, Jenkins, and Godinez (Count III).
Defendants Best, Godinez, and McBee have filed a motion to
dismiss Aguilar's second amended complaint. Because the Court
finds that Aguilar's claims all arise out of the same
series of occurrences, the Court refuses to sever the
conditions of confinement and religious exercise claims from
the due process claim. The Court also finds that Aguilar has
sufficiently alleged the elements of his due process claim,
leaving the factual determinations Best and McBee ask the
Court to make for later proceedings. Finally, the Court finds
Aguilar has sufficiently alleged a systemic issue concerning
the restriction of his religious activities so as to assert
that claim against Godinez, the Illinois Department of
Corrections (“IDOC”) director at that time.
February 15, 2013, members of Stateville's Internal
Affairs unit conducted a cell search of two cells, E-711 and
B-811. They uncovered a handmade weapon-a shank-in a
plumber's access area adjacent to the two cells. Based on
the discovery, they placed Aguilar, who lived in B-811, his
cellmate, and the two inmates living in E-711 in temporary
confinement under investigative status. Aguilar maintains he
did not have access to items in the plumber's access area
and so could not remove the shank from it.
February 18, Officer Milsap issued an investigative report,
which did not specify Aguilar's behavior on February 15
or the reasons for placing him under investigative status.
Aguilar also did not receive a shakedown receipt documenting
the contraband found during the February 15 search, the
circumstances of the shank's discovery, those present at
the time of its discovery, and whether a disciplinary report
was issued. Aguilar remained in temporary confinement under
investigative status for 32 days without any written notice
of the charges under investigation.
March 14, Aguilar took a voice stress analyzer
(“VSA”) test. At the time he took the VSA test,
he was under the care of a psychiatrist and taking Depakote
and Zoloft for stress, anxiety, mood swings, and depression.
Aguilar was asked four questions several times: “(1)
Did you see your cellmate sharpen the shank? (2) Did you
sharpen the shank on the bed? (3) Did you place the shank in
the pipe chase? and (4) Was the shank yours?” Doc. 42
¶ 25. Aguilar responded negatively to all four
questions. The person administering the test told Aguilar
that the first round of questioning was inconclusive. The VSA
test results indicated Aguilar was truthful on the first two
questions and deceptive on the last two questions.
March 18, Aguilar received a disciplinary report charging him
with “104: Dangerous Contraband” and “303:
Giving False Information to an Employee.” Doc. 42
¶ 27. The report stated that the investigative unit
found a shank in a plumber's access area between
Aguilar's cell and the adjoining one and that scratch
marks were found on the bottom metal bunk in Aguilar's
cell. The report also included the VSA results, concluding
the deceptive answers substantiated Aguilar's
involvement. Correctional Officer Ricardo Tejeda signed as
the reporting officer, even though he did not participate in
the search of Aguilar's cell.
March 29, Stateville's disciplinary board, chaired by
Best and with George as a member, held a hearing on
Aguilar's disciplinary report. Prior to the hearing,
Aguilar wrote to J. Clements, a correctional officer, and the
IDOC investigations unit requesting the name of the person
who administered the VSA test and a copy of the VSA test
result. He never received this information. Aguilar also
asked to retake the VSA test, but that request was denied. At
his disciplinary board hearing, Aguilar testified he did not
know anything about the shank, that he had been wrongfully
held in investigative detention without receiving a
disciplinary report, and that his taking psychiatric
medication affected the reliability of the VSA test results.
Aguilar asked to have three witnesses testify on his behalf.
Although these witnesses testified, Aguilar was not present
and so did not have the opportunity to ask them questions or
submit questions for these witnesses to answer. These three
witnesses testified that they heard scraping sounds in
Aguilar's cell when the officers conducted the search of
the cell on February 15. The disciplinary board found Aguilar
guilty of both possessing dangerous contraband and giving
false information to an employee, imposing a punishment of 6
months C grade, 6 months segregation, and 6 months commissary
restriction. Lemke, then Stateville's warden, approved
the disciplinary board's report on April 10.
filed an emergency grievance on May 14 concerning the
disciplinary hearing. The following day, he wrote Counselor
Mansfield to ensure that his grievance was provided to the
appropriate individual. Lemke denied that his grievance
constituted an emergency and required that Aguilar submit it
through the normal procedure. On July 22, Stateville
grievance counselor Alex Hall instructed Aguilar to forward
his grievance to a grievance officer for review, which
Aguilar did. McBee, one of Stateville's grievance
officers, reviewed Aguilar's request to expunge the
disciplinary report from his record but upheld the
in temporary confinement and then in segregation, Aguilar was
housed in Stateville's F-House, also known as the
Roundhouse. Aguilar could not make phone calls, could only
have two non-contact visits per month, was limited to $30 per
month in spending at the commissary, and had access to the
yard only one time per week for five hours. During these five
hours, Aguilar was placed in a small uncovered cage without
access to a bathroom and with no respite from the elements.
While inside, he was mainly restricted to his cell, could not
attend religious and recreational services, and, when allowed
out of his cell, had to travel with a chain and handcuffs
that locked around his waist and hands and have his feet
shackled when stationary.
November 2013, approximately a month after Aguilar was
released from disciplinary segregation, Lemke, with oversight
from Godinez, instituted a Weapons Violator/Staff Assaulter
program, also known as the Black Stripe program. This program
placed additional restrictions for a two-year period on those
who, like Aguilar, had violated weapons rules or assaulted
Stateville staff. Consequently, Aguilar moved back to
F-House, had to wear a black and white striped jumpsuit,
could not participate in work assignments, had to eat
breakfast and dinner in his cell, had only five hours of
recreation in the small yard per week, had no contact visits
with his family, could not enroll in educational and
recreational services, and could spend no more than $30 per
month at the commissary. Aguilar also could not participate
in religious services. Aguilar specifically complained about
the denial of access to religious services in a grievance
filed on March 29, 2015, but that grievance went unanswered.
addition to these restrictions, Aguilar's cell in F-House
was significantly smaller than that occupied by those in
regular population, measuring approximately 4'9” by
10'6”. Being in such a small space with another
inmate for almost 24 hours each day caused Aguilar
significant psychological issues. Due to its round shape,
F-House is extremely noisy, making it difficult for Aguilar
to sleep. Aguilar's cell had significant amounts of green
and black mold on the walls of his cell, which he had
difficulty cleaning without adequate cleaning supplies. He
also encountered cockroaches, mice, and birds in his cell.
Due to a hole in the ceiling, water leaked directly onto an
electrical socket. Faulty plumbing meant that the toilet and
sink in the cell did not always work. And because many cells,
including Aguilar's, had broken windows, Aguilar faced
extremely cold temperatures while in F-House. Exposure to
these conditions caused Aguilar to suffer abdominal pain and
sinus and respiratory illnesses. Aguilar verbally complained
about these issues to Sergeant Johnson and Lieutenant Jenkins
in August 2014, who both worked shifts at F-House during that
time. He also submitted an emergency grievance report on
September 3, 2014, which Williams, the warden at the time,
denied, and then never received a response from the assigned
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the
sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510,
1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts
in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable
inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor.
AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th
Cir. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint
must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a
claim's basis but must also be facially plausible.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d
929 (2007). “A ...