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Webster v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 24, 2018

TONY L. WEBSTER, #R71679, Plaintiff,
v.
BALDWIN, ATKINS, JEFF DENNISON, CAMPBELL, WARDEN WALKER, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Tony L. Webster, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) currently housed at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”), filed this pro se action on April 25, 2018. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on perceived differences in the conditions of confinement at Shawnee, compared with other medium security IDOC facilities. Plaintiff claims that these disparities violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, amount to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and constitute retaliation in violation of the First Amendment.

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The Complaint

         According to the Complaint, on November 1, 2011, IDOC's former director, Salvador Godinez, entered into a consent decree “that disband[ed] the old level system in place and designated the Shawnee C.C. as a medium security facility.” (Doc. 1, p. 5).[1] Plaintiff claims that inmates at Shawnee are subjected harsher conditions of confinement and have fewer privileges than inmates at other medium security IDOC facilities (apparently in violation of the consent decree). Id. According to the Complaint, unlike inmates at other medium security institutions, inmates at Shawnee: (1) do not have access to an electronic filing program (instead pleadings must be mailed to the courts); (2) receive an insufficient amount of yard time; (3) are subject to unsanitary food service conditions; (4) live in poorly maintained cells that have peeling paint, broken windows, poor ventilation, are over-heated, and lack hot water; (5) are not given room keys; (6) are forced to sleep on unsanitary mattresses; (7) are denied an adequate grievance system; (8) are denied adequate access to ice; and (9) are subjected to arbitrary commissary limitations. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6).

         With little or no elaboration, Plaintiff claims that the alleged disparities violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, amount to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and constitute retaliation in violation of the First Amendment.

         Designation of Counts

         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 regarding their merit. Any claims not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice from this action.

Count 1: Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim against Defendants relative to the conditions of confinement at Shawnee, as compared to other medium security IDOC facilities.
Count 2: Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against Defendants relative to the conditions at Shawnee, as compared to other medium security IDOC facilities.
Count 3: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants for subjecting Plaintiff to conditions of confinement constituting cruel and unusual punishment.
Count 4: First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendants relative to the conditions of confinement at Shawnee, as compared to other medium security IDOC facilities.

.

         Merits Review Under § 1915(A)[2]

         Count 1

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights to equal protection because he is housed at a medium security prison and is “treated more harshly th[a]n the other medium ...


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