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Jenkins v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 18, 2018

ANTWIN D. JENKINS, #09778-025, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Antwin Jenkins is currently confined in White County Jail (“Jail”) located in Carmi, Illinois. He has been housed there on a federal holdover since July 24, 2017. Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed'l Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), in order to challenge various aspects of his confinement at the Jail. (Doc. 21). He seeks monetary damages against the defendants. (Doc. 21, p. 6). Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint[1] is now before the Court for preliminary review under 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.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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).

         Second Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff brings five claims against the defendants for conduct that began in July 2017. (Doc. 21). He complains that the defendants interfered with his mail, denied him outdoor recreational opportunities, denied him access to an electronic law library, and deprived him of adequate nutrition. Id. A summary of the allegations offered in support of each claim is set forth below.

         1. Interference with Legal Mail

         Plaintiff alleges that his legal mail was photocopied and distributed to members of the Jail's staff without his permission on at least one occasion. (Doc. 21, p. 5). On August 23, 2017, Randy Cobb (Jail administrator) and Officer Hamblin (non-party) called Plaintiff out of his cell to speak with him. Id. Cobb informed Plaintiff that the Jail's staff members were aware of the complaint he filed against them in federal court. Id. Cobb asked Plaintiff to withdraw it. Id.

         At the time, Plaintiff noticed that Cobb was holding a copy of the complaint. (Doc. 21, p. 5). He recalled asking an unknown officer to photocopy his “legal mail” the previous night, but Plaintiff did not grant the officer permission to make and distribute additional copies to staff. Id. Plaintiff maintains that the officer's decision to interfere with his legal mail without his permission violated his constitutional rights. Id.

         2. Denial of Outdoor Recreation

         Plaintiff also claims that he has been denied all opportunities for outdoor recreation since he arrived at the Jail on July 24, 2017. (Doc. 21, p. 5). He is confined in a cell with 9 adult men for 24 hours per day. Id. The cell is the size of a single car garage, and Plaintiff describes it as overcrowded. Id. He cannot exercise in the cell because it is too small and too hot. Id. The only time he is allowed outside is for court hearings and medical appointments. Id. Plaintiff suffers from asthma and claims that the denial of fresh air makes it difficult to breathe. Id. His joints have become stiff. Id. In addition, Plaintiff lacks the vitamins and nutrients provided by sunlight. Id.

         He asked Cobb to authorize outdoor recreation for the federal inmates who are housed at the Jail. (Doc. 21, p. 5). However, Cobb told him that the Jail is “federally controlled” by the United States Marshal Service, and an unnamed supervisory official informed Cobb that “[f]ederal inmates were not to rec[ei]ve recreation.” Id. Plaintiff maintains that federal inmates in administrative detention and segregation are generally allowed to have at least one hour of outdoor recreation. Id. Given that he is not housed in segregation or administrative detention, Plaintiff claims that the denial of recreation amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Id.

         3. Inadequate Law Library

         Plaintiff next challenges the lack of legal resources at the Jail. (Doc. 21, p. 5). He is unaware of any federally funded holding facility located in the federal judicial district for the Southern District of Illinois that is equipped with an electronic law library. Id. However, Plaintiff points out that federal detention centers usually provide inmates with access to case law, federal court rules, and other legal materials. Id. The Jail does not. Id. As a result, Plaintiff is unable to research “his civil case.” Id. The lack of adequate legal resources allegedly violates Plaintiff's right to due process of law. Id.

         4. Inadequate Diet

         Plaintiff also complains about the Jail's diet. (Doc. 21-1, p. 1). Cobb has authorized “a consistent diet of unhealthy food.” Id. Each day, inmates are routinely served a single bowl of cereal for breakfast, a microwavable sandwich and small bag of potato chips for lunch, and a microwavable “t.v. dinner” each night. Id. Under Illinois law, Plaintiff claims that county jails are required to “rotate their menu every 90 days.” Id. However, the Jail's menu has not changed since Plaintiff arrived at the Jail on July 24, 2017. Id. Plaintiff adds that the food is “often outdated and molded.” (Doc. 21-1, p. 2).

         Plaintiff and other federal inmates have spoken with Cobb about the menu on several occasions. (Doc. 21-1, p. 5). Each time, he promises to change the menu. Id. However, Cobb never does. Id. Several federal inmates filed a joint complaint with Cobb on or around October 12, 2017. Id. In it, they complained that the processed foods and mashed potatoes are unhealthy. Id. The federal inmates requested fresh fruit or another “healthy alternative” at each meal. Id. Plaintiff noted that some federal inmates receive fish, turkey, chicken, pulled pork, beans, fresh fruit, and fresh vegetables. Id. He argues that the United States Government provides the Jail with “more than enough funds to properly feed” federal inmates. Id. Cobb did not respond to the complaint. Id. The County continues to “cut ...

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