United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.
Gilberto Gonzalez, an inmate currently housed at Menard
Correctional Center (“Menard”), filed this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff brings
allegations pertaining to the conditions at Menard and the
medical care he received for a broken thumb. Plaintiff
maintains that the alleged constitutional deprivations are
connected, in whole or in part, to overcrowding at Menard.
Plaintiff seeks monetary damages, injunctive relief,
a prison transfer. (Doc. 1, p. 26).
case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the
Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which
(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
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.
asserts four sets of claims against Defendants in his
Complaint. A summary of the factual allegations offered in
support of the claims is followed by a brief analysis of each
claim below. Any claim that is not recognized by the Court in
this screening order should be considered dismissed without
prejudice from this action.
Conditions of Confinement
describes Menard as old, dilapidated, and overcrowded. (Doc.
1, pp. 6-10). The prison was allegedly built in 1878 and has
not been updated. (Doc. 61, p. 6). Cells that were originally
built to house one inmate are now used to house two inmates.
(Doc. 1, p. 6). Therefore, inmates do not have enough space
to move around in the cells and are only permitted one hour
of exercise outside of their cells each day. (Doc. 1, pp.
6-7). This causes psychological and physical deterioration.
(Doc. 1, p. 6). Because Plaintiff cannot move freely around
his cell and is not given adequate opportunities to exercise,
he is suffering from headaches, constipation, knee pain, back
pain, depression, and increased blood pressure. (Doc. 1, p.
addition to the above, Plaintiff complains of the following
• The cells have inadequate ventilation, resulting in
extremely hot and cold temperatures. (Doc. 1, p. 8).
• The cells are infested with ants, mice, and roaches.
(Doc. 1, p. 8).
• The plumbing is inadequate. (Doc. 1, p. 8). When other
inmates flush their toilets, feces and urine flow into
Plaintiffs toilet. (Doc. 1, p. 8).
• Cleaning supplies are not provided on a regular basis.
(Doc. 1, p. 8). As a result, Plaintiff cannot keep his cell
clean; bacteria, germs, and disease are left to accumulate
and gather in Plaintiffs cell. (Doc. 1, p. 8).
• The cells and showers have high levels of toxic black
mold and Plaintiff is breathing in mold spores on a daily
basis. (Doc. 1, p. 8).
connection with these claims, Plaintiff names the Illinois
Department of Corrections (“IDOC'), Butler (Former
Menard Warden), John Doe 1 (Menard Warden from December 2016
- February 2017), Baldwin (IDOC Director), and Wexford. (Doc.
1, p. 9). Plaintiff contends these Defendants are required to
conduct and safety and sanitation checks throughout the cell
houses but fail to do so. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff also
suggests that IDOC, Butler, John Doe 1, and Baldwin are
subject to liability for “turning a blind eye” to
the alleged unconstitutional conditions. With respect to this
claim, Plaintiff alleges Defendants were on notice of these
conditions because of numerous inmate grievances, letters,
and lawsuits regarding the same conditions, as well as
reports issued by the John Howard Association. (Doc. 1, p.
9). Finally, the Complaint also suggests that Oakley, a
grievance counselor, is subject to liability for denying a
grievance pertaining to Plaintiff's cell conditions.
Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs
generally alleges that medical treatment at Menard is
substandard and regularly denied or delayed. (Doc. 1, pp.
10-11, 19-22). Plaintiff contends correctional officers have
taken on an improper gate-keeper role, often denying requests
for medical visits when they feel an injury is not serious
and improperly substituting their judgment for the judgment
of medical staff. (Doc. 1, pp. 14-16). Plaintiff attributes
the alleged constitutional deprivations to (1) Menard's
severe overcrowding (there are not enough medical employees
to meet the prison's needs) (Doc. 1, pp. 22-23); (2)
inadequate training from IDOC, Baldwin, Butler, and Wexford
(Doc. 1, pp. 13, 15); and (3) Wexford's cost saving
policies, including deliberately understaffing the medical
department, utilizing cheaper/less effective treatments, and
denying/delaying necessary treatment (Doc. 1, pp. 10-11,
19-22). Plaintiff also asserts that IDOC, Butler, and Baldwin
are on notice about the conduct described above (because of
grievances, letters, lawsuits, reports from the John Howard
Association, and newspaper articles) but have “turned a
blind eye” to it. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Finally, Plaintiff
contends that Wexford, IDOC, Butler, John Doe 1, Baldwin, and
Trost “allow the healthcare unit to be
understaffed” and then use the lack of staff as basis
for denying medical requests. (Doc. 1, p. 19).
medical claim arises from the medical care he received for a
broken thumb. (Doc. 1, p. 11). On November 30, 2016,
Plaintiff was in the yard and injured his right thumb. (Doc.
1, pp. 11, 39). Plaintiff's thumb was bent at an odd
angle, swollen to twice its size, and turning black/purple.
(Doc. 1, p. 11). Plaintiff showed his injured thumb to John
Doe 2 - the on duty tower officer. Id. John Doe 2
disregarded Plaintiff's request for medical attention and
told Plaintiff he would have to seek medical care when
Plaintiff returned to the cell house. (Doc. 1, pp. 11-12).
According to the Complaint, Plaintiff did not return to the
cell house for another two hours.
approximately 2:00 p.m., Plaintiff returned to the cell
house. (Doc. 1, p. 16). Plaintiff showed his thumb to the
cell house sergeant and a gallery officer. (Doc. 1, p. 16).
The sergeant and the officer denied Plaintiff's request
for medical attention and told him he would have to seek
assistance on the following shift (3:00 p.m. To 11:00 p.m.).
Id. The cell house sergeant and the gallery officer
are not identified as defendants in Plaintiff's caption
or in Plaintiff's list of defendants.
the 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. shift, Plaintiff showed his
injured thumb to a correctional officer. (Doc. 1, p. 17).
Plaintiff told the correctional officer his thumb was broken,
that he was in severe pain (on a scale of 1-10, his pain was
a 9 or higher), and requested medical attention. Id.
The correctional officer indicated he would contact the
healthcare unit. Id. The correctional officer
returned and told Plaintiff that, the healthcare unit was
short staffed and the nurses were extremely busy handling new
arrivals. (Doc. 1, p. 18). Accordingly, the nurses were too
busy to address Plaintiff's broken thumb, which the
nurses deemed to be a non-emergency. (Doc. 1, p. 18).
8:00 p.m., Jane Doe 1, a nurse, was passing out night
medications. (Doc. 1, p. 18). Plaintiff showed Jane Doe 1 his
thumb and requested medical attention. Id. The nurse
informed Plaintiff that they were short staffed and too busy
handling new arrivals to address Plaintiff's
non-emergency broken thumb. Id. Plaintiff indicated
he was in severe pain and requested pain medication.
Id. Jane Doe 1 denied Plaintiff's request. (Doc.
1, p. 19).
December 1, 2016, Plaintiff showed his injured thumb to John
Doe 4, a physician's assistant. (Doc. 1, p. 19). John Doe
4 examined the injury, prescribed Motrin for pain,
referred Plaintiff to the healthcare unit for an x-ray. (Doc.
1, pp. 20, 39, 44-45). Plaintiff's thumb was x-rayed the
same day. (Doc. 1, pp. 20, 42). The x-ray revealed that
Plaintiff's thumb was broken. (Doc. 1, pp. 20, 42).
According to the Complaint, upon reviewing the x-ray, John
Doe 4 prescribed a plastic mold for Plaintiff's thumb.
(Doc. 1, p. 20). Plaintiff contends the Plastic mold was
ineffective because it was ill fitting and twice as big as
his thumb. Id. Plaintiff also contends that his
injury should have been treated with a cast and not a plastic
December 9, 2016, Plaintiff was examined by an unidentified
nurse for pain related to his injured thumb. (Doc. 1, p. 45).
At the time, Plaintiff was taking 1600 mg of Motrin.
Id. Plaintiff's thumb was examined, and Tylenol
was prescribed instead of Motrin. Id. The nurse
informed Plaintiff that only a physician could address his
request for stronger pain medication. (Doc. 1, p. 22).
Accordingly, the nurse referred Plaintiff for treatment with
a physician. (Doc. 1, pp. 22, 45). The Complaint suggests
that Trost is the physician to whom Plaintiff would have been
referred, but Plaintiff was never examined by Trost. (Doc. 1,
p. 22). Instead, Plaintiff was seen by John Doe 4.
Id. John Doe 4 also lacked the authority to
prescribe stronger pain medication and did not effectively
treat Plaintiff's pain. Id.
December 20, 2016, Plaintiff had a follow-up x-ray ordered by
John Doe 4. (Doc. 1, p. 43). That x-ray revealed that the
thumb was still fractured but noted that “some
healing” was “suggested.” Id. A
letter responding to one of Plaintiff's complaints
indicates that Plaintiff was also examined and received
follow-up x-rays on December 28, 2016 and January 12, 2017.
(Doc. 1, p. 39).
contends he was never examined by a specialist because of
Wexford's cost-saving policies. (Doc. 1, p. 21).
Plaintiff also objects to the fact that he has not received
an MRI (Doc. 1, p. 21) and that medical staff do not intend
to follow-up with physical therapy. (Doc. 1, p. 24).
December 2, 2016, Plaintiff submitted a grievance regarding
the delayed treatment for his injured thumb. (Doc. 1, pp.
4-5, 31-33). The grievance also indicated that, although
Plaintiff had received some medical care, the medical care
was inadequate. Id. Plaintiff did not receive a
response and subsequently submitted letters to the warden
(John Doe 1) and Baldwin. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5, 36-38). The
letters inquired about the status of Plaintiff's original
grievance, suggested that Plaintiff was being denied medical
care, and asked for help in obtaining medical care. (Doc. 1,
pp. 36-38). In February 2017, Lashbrook responded to one of
Plaintiff's letters, indicating the letter had been
forwarded to her. (Doc. 1, p. 39). Lashbrook reviewed
Plaintiff's medical records and concluded that Plaintiff
was receiving treatment for his injured thumb. Id.
Claims Pertaining to Prisoner Mail and Prison Library
(Counts 3 through 5)
contends the mailroom is inadequately staffed and mailroom
employees are inadequately trained. (Doc. 1, p. 7). As a
result, mail is sometimes lost or delayed, and legal mail is
being opened outside of Plaintiff's presence.
Id. Plaintiff also alleges that the law library is
inadequately staffed and law library employees are
inadequately trained. Id. Plaintiff alleges this
violates his right to access the courts and to access
contends the inadequacies in the mailroom and law library are
connected to the issue of overcrowding. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8).
These claims appear to be directed against IDOC, Butler, John
Doe 1, Baldwin, and Wexford. (Doc. 1, p. 9).
Cancelling Medical Appointments During Lockdown (Count
contends that Wexford, Trost, Butler, John Doe 1, and Baldwin
have implemented a policy canceling all medical call passes
when Menard is on lockdown. (Doc. 1, p. 23). On December 23,
2016, as a result of this policy, Plaintiff's medical
call pass was recalled and Plaintiff was not seen as
requested. (Doc. 1, pp. 24, 46).
of Certain Defendants IDOC
cannot maintain his suit for money damages against the IDOC
because it is a state government agency. The Supreme Court
has held that “neither a State nor its officials acting
in their official capacities are ‘persons' under
§ 1983.” Will v. Mich. Dep't of State
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). The Eleventh Amendment
bars suits against states in federal court for money damages.
Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir.
2001); Billman v. Ind. Dep't of Corr., 56 F.3d
785, 788 (7th Cir. 1995) (state Department of Corrections is
immune from suit by virtue ...