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Jennings. v. Garner

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 5, 2017

JAMES C. JENNINGS, Jr., #Y14477, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff James Jennings, Jr., an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his constitutional rights at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claims that he was attacked by another inmate on July 26, 2017, after being denied protective custody by Mr. Garner (internal affairs officer), Ms. Collins (head counselor), and Sherry Benton (administrative review board chairperson). (Doc. 1, pp. 8-11, 19-24, 31-34, 36-39). He was issued a disciplinary ticket for fighting and held for six days in disciplinary segregation before the ticket was dismissed. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-11, 25-30, 41-46). Plaintiff now seeks monetary damages against the defendants. (Doc. 1, p. 12, 35, 40).

         This matter is before the Court for 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.

Id. 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 in the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). The Complaint survives screening under this standard.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff was attacked by another inmate after being denied protective custody at Menard in June and July 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 8, 10-11, 31-34, 36-39). He was released from segregation into Menard's East Cell House on or around June 17, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Two days later, several well-known “moes”[1] approached Plaintiff and told him to check into protective custody for his own safety. Id. One of these inmates, known as “Scooter, ” approached Plaintiff in the prison yard and threatened to “stab [him] up” if he did not do so. Id.

         Plaintiff allegedly owed several inmates money at the time. (Doc. 1, p. 8). He apparently intended to repay them with items he purchased from the prison commissary. Id. However, Plaintiff was subject to commissary restrictions because of his B-grade status. Id. Consequently, he was only allowed to spend $30.00 at the commissary. Id.

         Plaintiff approached a lieutenant and asked him for permission to spend the entire $100.00 balance in his account. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff failed to mention that he owed anyone money. Id. The lieutenant suspected this and, after denying Plaintiff's request, asked another inmate named “U-Mac” if Plaintiff “owed everybody.” Id. When U-Mac told Plaintiff about the lieutenant's inquiry, Plaintiff denied any outstanding financial obligations to other inmates. Id.

         Plaintiff nevertheless requested protective custody, and his request was temporarily granted. (Doc. 1, p. 8). After reporting the inmate threats to Counselor Collins and requesting continued protective placement, she denied the request. Id. Internal Affairs Officer Garner did the same. (Doc. 1, p. 10).

         On July 20, 2017, Plaintiff spoke with Chairperson Benton about the matter. (Doc. 1, p. 10). In addition to reporting the recent threats made by Scooter and other inmates, Plaintiff allegedly told Benton that Internal Affairs Officer “Gee” previously informed Plaintiff that he should not be housed on “the hill” at Menard and would be transferred. (Doc. 1, pp. 10, 19-24). Benton agreed to look into the matter. (Doc. 1, p. 10). While she did so, Plaintiff remained in protective custody. Id. On July 25, 2017, Plaintiff received paperwork from Benton that denied his request for protective custody and resulted in his transfer to Menard's West Cell House. Id.

         Plaintiff claims that “everybody from the East House” also transferred to the West Cell House around the same time. (Doc. 1, p. 10). When Plaintiff went to the prison yard, Scooter approached Plaintiff and told him that he was not supposed to be “on loca.” Id. He was attacked the following day. Id.

         As Plaintiff returned from the gym to the West Cell House on July 26, 2017, Inmate Elliot stepped out of line and struck Plaintiff in the right ear. (Doc. 1, p. 10). The blow to his head caused Plaintiff to feel dizzy and lightheaded. Id. He fell to the ground. Id. Inmate Elliot then climbed on top of Plaintiff and began hitting him in the face. Id. When Plaintiff shielded his face with his hands, Inmate Elliot hit Plaintiff in his left ear and caused serious bleeding. (Doc. 1, p. 11).

         Following the incident, Plaintiff was issued a disciplinary ticket for fighting and taken to segregation. (Doc. 1, pp. 11, 25-27). He spoke with Internal Affairs Officer Gee about the ticket, and Gee assured Plaintiff that he would speak directly to the lieutenant in charge of his disciplinary hearing. Id. In the meantime, Plaintiff remained in segregation, where he wrote the lieutenant a kite challenging the ticket and his punishment with segregation. Id. The lieutenant ultimately dismissed the ticket on August 1, 2017. Id. On the same date, Plaintiff transferred from segregation into protective custody, where he remained until transferring to Shawnee Correctional Center. Id.

         In the statement of his claim, Plaintiff does not complain about the denial of medical care for the injuries he sustained on July 26, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 11). However, his exhibits point to a possible delay or denial of medical care. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-11, 19-24, 31-34, 36-39). Plaintiff was allegedly treated in the prison health care unit by a ...

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