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Dismukes v. Hileman

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 11, 2018

TERRELL DISMUKES, #R73442, Plaintiff,
v.
SHANE HILEMAN, JEFFERY M. DENNISON, and BRETT NEIGHBORS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Plaintiff Terrell Dismukes, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that he has been subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at Shawnee since he transferred to the facility on January 10, 2018. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-18). He asserts an Eighth Amendment claim against Shane Hileman, Brett Neighbors, and Jeffery Dennison. Id. Plaintiff seeks monetary relief against these individuals. (Doc. 1, p. 19).

         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

         According to the allegations in the Complaint, Plaintiff transferred to Shawnee on January 10, 2018. (Doc. 1, p. 5). He filed the instant Complaint four months later. Id. In it, Plaintiff alleges that the following officials deliberately disregarded the unconstitutional conditions of his confinement at Shawnee, in violation of the Eighth Amendment: Jeffery Dennison (warden), Shane Hileman (clothing room supervisor), Brett Neighbors (chief engineer), Karen Smoot (health administrator), Jane Doe (nurse), and Alfonso David (doctor).[1]

         By way of background information, Plaintiff explains that he was initially housed at Vandalia Correctional Center (“Vandalia”). (Doc. 1, p. 5). According to statewide policy, each prison is responsible for providing its inmates with the same basic clothing. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). Before transferring to a new facility, inmates are required to return these items. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Consistent with this policy, Plaintiff was issued clothing and new boots at Vandalia, and he returned these items before transferring to Shawnee. Id. In place of his boots, Plaintiff was provided with a pair of thin slip-on tennis shoes. Id. The shoes are typically given to inmates who are confined to their cells for 23 hours per day with little exposure to the elements, such as inmates in segregation or on suicide watch. Id. He assumed that the shoes were for his temporary use. Id.

         When he arrived at Shawnee on January 10, 2018, Plaintiff received a bedroll containing two torn and urine-stained sheets. (Doc. 1, p. 5). He was also issued a blanket with holes in it, but no mattress cover. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 8). Plaintiff was informed that he could either wait two years for new items or purchase them directly from the prison's commissary. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff claims that statewide policy entitles inmates to new sheets, pillows, blankets, mattress covers, boots, gym shoes, and t-shirts every year. Id.

         The following day, Shane Hileman issued Plaintiff allegedly inadequate clothing, including “dirty torn pants, ” two old blue shirts (with missing buttons), and an old coat (with a broken zipper). (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 8). When Plaintiff attempted to exchange his slip-on tennis shoes for a pair of boots, Hileman informed him that no boots would be issued, but Plaintiff could purchase them in the prison's commissary. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff was in shock. Id. He could not believe what he was hearing, given that it was the month of January. Id. All other prisons in the state had a policy of issuing new clothing, but Shawnee inmates only received three new pairs of boxer shorts, three new pairs of socks, one bath towel, and one face towel every seven months. Id.

         Plaintiff could not afford to purchase any new items. (Doc. 1, p. 8). As a result, he had to endure “brutal winter conditions” in the flimsy tennis shoes and inadequate clothing. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). Three times each day, he was required to walk to the chow hall in freezing temperatures. (Doc. 1, p. 7). The shoes did not keep his feet warm or dry, particularly during one winter storm and “multiple days of continuing rain.” Id. Plaintiff could have suffered from frost bite, but he did not. Id. He suffered from discomfort associated with wet shoes, wet weather, and cold temperatures. Id.

         On January 11, 2018, Plaintiff was transferred into the prison's general population and placed in Cell 2-C-60. (Doc. 1, p. 9). The cell was in poor condition. Id. Paint peeled from the walls and floors. Id. The windows were broken, and the screens were screwed shut. Id. Thick plastic bags and duct tape covered them. (Doc. 1, pp. 9, 16). The vents were covered in rust and dust. Id. Plaintiff's cell had no hot water and no mirror. (Doc. 1, p. 10). His top bunk was covered in a thin, urine- and rust- stained mattress. (Doc. 1, p. 9). To protect himself from germs and pests in the filthy mattress, Plaintiff used his blanket as a mattress cover and the two sheets as a blanket. Id. During the winter months, he was uncomfortably cold. Id. As the outside temperatures rose into the 70's in February and March, however, the cell became unbearably hot. (Doc. 1, pp. 10, 16). This is largely because Warden Dennison and Chief Engineer Neighbors decided to turn up the thermostat when there was no air circulation due to the clogged vents. Id. Inmates began using their property boxes to break the screws on the screened windows in order to get fresh air. Id. Plaintiff suffered from breathing difficulties. Id.

         The entire wing was plagued with similar problems. (Doc. 1, p. 10). There was no running water on the top deck. Id. The toilets in the dayroom were broken and filled to the brim with feces “for months.” Id. Plastic bags were placed over the tops of the toilets to mask the smell, but this system failed. Id. The two showers were filled with peeling paint and mold. (Doc. 1, pp. 11, 14). The rusty shower vents and pipes were clogged, resulting in poor circulation and “no water pressure.” Id. ...


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