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Medlin v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 16, 2018

RONALD LEE MEDLIN, # B-60426, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Ronald Lee Medlin, currently incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that his constitutional rights have been violated because the prison where he is housed does not offer the same amenities as other prisons of the same classification within the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). The Complaint is now before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner Complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of the Complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         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 “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” 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. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         After fully considering the allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court concludes that this action is subject to summary dismissal.

         The Complaint

         When Plaintiff was sent to the Northern Receiving Center of the Illinois Department of Corrections, his security classification was determined to be “Medium.” (Doc. 1, p. 5). He was then transferred to Shawnee. He has not incurred any disciplinary tickets or incidents. Id.

         Plaintiff references a November 1, 2011, Consent Decree[1] that was incorporated into IDOC Administrative Directive 05.06.110. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 11-14). Facilities that were formerly designated as “Level Two, Level Three, and Level Four” were deemed to be “Medium” under the classification system set forth in that directive. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff alleges that despite the discontinuation of the former classifications, Shawnee is still being run as a “Level Two ‘Punishment Prison.'” Id. Plaintiff further alleges that consequently, he is being arbitrarily “discriminated against and treated differently” from other IDOC prisoners classified as Medium, who are housed in Graham, Centralia, Danville, and other “Medium” security prisons. Id.

         Plaintiff contrasts the conditions at Shawnee primarily with those at Graham and Centralia: He is locked in his cell most of the day, while Graham/Centralia prisoners are out of their cells all day except for chow lines. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff does not have a key to his cell, and gets only 2 hours of dayroom per day. Prisoners at Graham and Centralia have a key to enter and exit their cells “all day long, ” and may use the dayroom at any time of the day, 7 days a week. Id. Plaintiff is limited to 30-45 minutes of gym, 5 days a week, while Graham/Centralia prisoners have yard and gym 3 times per day. Plaintiff may access the Shawnee commissary only once or twice per month, and purchases are capped at $150.00 per visit; there is no such restriction at Graham, Centralia, or Danville, where prisoners may shop at commissary once per week. Shawnee prisoners may use the laundry twice a week, have telephone access for one hour twice a day, and may get ice once a day for 20 minutes. In contrast, Centralia and Graham have unlimited access to these amenities at any time. Those prisons have a television in the dayroom, but Shawnee does not.

         Based on these differences, Plaintiff asserts that he is denied equal treatment under an “illegal classification system” that violates the Consent Decree and the Administrative Directive 05.06.110. (Doc. 1, p.5). He claims although he has not violated any rules, he has been subjected to more harsh conditions of confinement than he would face if he were in one of the other medium-security prisons. He argues that this “punishment” has been imposed without due process of law, because he was not afforded a hearing before being placed at Shawnee. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). Plaintiff also raises a “class of one” equal protection claim.

         Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief to “disband” the Level system, apply equal treatment and policies to all prisoners classified as medium-security in the IDOC system, and for IDOC to adhere to the Moorhead Consent Decree. (Doc. 1, p. 7). He also requests compensatory and punitive damages. Id.

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Plaintiff's placement in Shawnee has subjected him to unequal treatment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, because Shawnee does not have the same programs, policies, or access to ...

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