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Bowens v. Godinez

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 11, 2018

SHAWN BOWENS, #R45897, Plaintiff,
v.
S. A. GODINEZ, RANDY DAVIS, WARDEN LOVE, JOHN DOE A, JOHN DOE B, JOHN DOE C, JOHN DOE D, and JOHN DOE E, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Plaintiff Shawn Bowens, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Centralia Correctional Center (“Centralia”), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his Eighth Amendment rights at Vienna Correctional Center (“Vienna”). In the Complaint, Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at Vienna from 2013-16. (Doc. 1). He seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages, and injunctive relief. (Doc. 1, pp. 15-17).

         This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Complaint (Doc. 1) 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). The Complaint survives screening under this standard.

         Complaint

         Plaintiff was incarcerated at Vienna from November 13, 2013, until October 26, 2016. (Doc. 1, p. 4). During that time, he was housed on the second and third floors of Building 19. Id. He describes unconstitutional conditions of confinement in Building 19 and throughout the prison. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-14).

         The second floor of Building 19 housed 200 inmates in open dormitories, which Plaintiff describes as overcrowded. (Doc. 1, p. 4). The dorms contained rows of double bunk beds that were arranged so close together that Plaintiff could reach from his bed across the aisle and touch the inmate who was sleeping in the next row. Id. The second floor was not designed to house inmates in this fashion. Id. It lacked basic facilities, such as bathrooms with a sufficient number of toilets and showers. Id. There was also a general lack of maintenance and upkeep. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plumbing problems resulted, exposing inmates to raw sewage, flooding, and unclean drinking water. (Doc. 1, p. 13). Spider webs covered the walls, and birds' nests filled available crevices. (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         Due to severe overcrowding on the second floor, Plaintiff was moved to the third floor and housed in the third wing. (Doc. 1, p. 5). The conditions there were even worse than the second floor. Id. Roaches, spiders, ants, millipedes, mice, rats, and other insects infested the entire wing. Id. Plaintiff witnessed them crawling across walls, bunks, and inmate property during the daytime. Id. He also found insects in his clothes, shoes, bed, and property boxes. Id. Plaintiff discovered cockroaches in his coffee cup, in his drinking glass, and on his toothbrush. Id. Mice, rats, and spiders crawled into Plaintiff's property boxes and ate his food. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). At night, Plaintiff was awakened by roaches crawling across his body, bedding, pillows, clothing, and property. (Doc. 1, p. 5).

         Plaintiff worked in the prison dietary unit, where inmate meals were prepared. (Doc. 1, p. 6). He frequently observed mice, rats, and spiders scampering across the floor in the dining hall. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). The mice and roaches also ran “rampant” in the dietary unit. Id. Rodent feces could be found in the bread, rice, and grain bins. Id.

         The unknown dietary supervisors, who are identified generically as John Doe A, B, C, D, and E, were aware of these problems. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). They nevertheless instructed Plaintiff and his coworkers to serve contaminated, outdated, and spoiled food to inmates. Id. Plaintiff witnessed roaches and spiders crawling through food pans and across serving spoons as meals were served. Id. He frequently found dead bugs, rodent droppings, flies, hair, rocks, rubber bands, and cardboard in the food. Id. The inmates had to pick and choose what to eat. Id.

         Building 19 also lacked adequate ventilation and thus exposed inmates to extreme temperatures and other weather. (Doc. 1, p. 7). The air vents were “caked with dust, ” which constantly circulated through the building and caused Plaintiff to develop breathing problems. Id. Many windows were boarded shut, blocking out all light and preventing the circulation of air. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Other windows were broken and had no screens. Id. In the winter, the building became so cold that Plaintiff had to sleep in all of his clothes and was still cold. Id. In the summer, Building 19 was unbearably hot. Id. During storms, water leaked into the building through the broken windows and cracked ceilings. Id. Rainwater dripped directly onto Plaintiff's bed and property. Id.

         Due to poor ventilation, the prison developed a serious mold problem. (Doc. 1, p. 8). This problem extended far beyond Building 19. Id. Mold could be found “everywhere” at Vienna. Id. It grew on the walls, ceilings, light fixtures, sinks, drinking fountains, showers, and toilets. Id. Plaintiff observed it fall in large chunks from the ceiling onto his bed and into the shower. Id. No. meaningful steps were taken to remediate the mold. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Periodically, maintenance workers painted over it. Id.

         Plaintiff made verbal complaints about these conditions directly to Warden Love and/or Warden Davis, as well as the prison's chief engineer.[1] (Doc. 1, p. 9). On October 7, 2014, he stopped making verbal complaints and began submitting written grievances on a regular basis. Id. Prison officials routinely rejected or ignored his grievances, in order to thwart his efforts to exhaust his administrative remedies before ...


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