United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
D. Johnston United States Magistrate Judge.
this Court's Report and Recommendation that
Plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (Dkt. 6)
be granted as modified. Any objection to this Report and
Recommendation shall be filed by June 28, 2018. Failure to
object may constitute a waiver of objections on appeal.
See Provident Bank v. Manor Steel Corp., 882 F.2d
258, 260 (7th Cir. 1989). A telephonic status hearing is set
for July 9, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. By July 6, 2018, counsel shall
provide direct-dial telephone numbers to the Court's
operations specialist, who will initiate the call.
February 9, 2018, Plaintiff, Stephon Woodley, an inmate at
Dixon Correctional Center, filed a complaint against the
Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”)
Defendants,  Wexford Health Sources
(“Wexford”) and five unidentified John Does for
their alleged deliberate indifference to his serious medical
need and discrimination relating to accommodations for his
Stargardt disease, a hereditary degenerative eye disease
causing progressive vision loss that has left Plaintiff
legally blind. Dkt. 1. Specifically, Plaintiff has claims
under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42
U.S.C. § 12132 (“ADA”), the Rehabilitation
Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., and the Eighth
March 14, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion for a Preliminary
Injunction (“Motion”) against Defendant John
Baldwin. Dkts. 6-7. Specifically, Plaintiff requests that
Defendant Baldwin provide him with the following visual aids:
(1) a portable digital magnifier for reading;
(2) a bright task light for his cell;
(3) a monocular scope for distance vision; and
(4) a folding cane to navigate the prison.
argues that these four items were specifically prescribed by
a specialist to assist him with his activities of daily
living and so he can continue to enroll in education courses
and programs at Dixon Correctional Center.
Court held a hearing on Plaintiff's Motion on April 23,
2018. Plaintiff, the IDOC Defendants and Wexford
submitted briefs and exhibits before the hearing.
See Dkt. 42 (Plaintiff's Brief and Exhibits);
Dkts. 43-44, 54, 57 (IDOC's Brief and Exhibits); Dkts.
47, 53 (Wexford's Brief and Exhibits). All exhibits were
admitted into evidence. Plaintiff and Amber Allen,
Dixon's Healthcare Unit Administrator, testified at the
hearing. The facts presented at the hearing were largely not
in dispute. The Court found the testimony of Plaintiff and
Amber Allen both credible and reliable.
outset of the hearing, counsel for the IDOC Defendants
informed the Court that they had ultimately approved
Plaintiff's request for a folding cane. Counsel for the
IDOC Defendants admitted that there were other inmates at
Dixon Correctional Center using this type of folding cane, so
it did not need to be approved for security purposes. Amber
Allen confirmed that Plaintiff should have his cane within
the week. Amber Allen further explained that she was unaware
Plaintiff had been denied a cane until it was recently
brought to her attention.
the remaining three items, the IDOC Defendants object to
issuing them to Plaintiff based on a security concern. The
IDOC Defendants state that these items have not been approved
by Dixon's security unit for distribution because the
particular items have not been inspected. However, the items
have not been inspected because Wexford has refused to
purchase them for inspection without prior security approval.
This is a classic Catch-22 that resulted in a federal lawsuit and
a preliminary injunction hearing before any reasonable action
would be taken - including the acquisition of a folding cane
that Plaintiff first requested back in 2015 and that other
inmates have been using at Dixon Correctional Center for
hearing, the following evidence was presented. Plaintiff is
approximately 38-years-old and incarcerated at Dixon
Correctional Center. Plaintiff is currently scheduled for
parole on September 28, 2018.
was initially diagnosed with Stargardt disease when he was 11
years old, in approximately 1991. Plaintiff started losing
his vision in his mid-20s, in approximately 2005, and his
vision progressively got worse from there. When Plaintiff
first entered the IDOC custody in 2002, a prison optometrist
diagnosed Plaintiff as having Stargardt disease and
recommended a plastic magnifier and good lighting so
Plaintiff could read. Plaintiff's Exhibit 1, Dkt. 42-1.
In 2010, prison optometrist Dr. David Hicks prescribed
Plaintiff a more powerful glass magnifier because his vision
had deteriorated to the point that he was considered legally
blind. Plaintiff's Exhibit 2, Dkt. 42-1.
2011, Plaintiff obtained his General Education Diploma, and
thereafter in 2012, he registered for college courses through
Dixon Correctional Center. Plaintiff has also been working in
Dixon Correctional Center's dietary division since
December 2011, rolling silverware into napkins. IDOC's
Exhibit 1, Dkt. 44-1.
2012, Dr. Hicks concluded that Plaintiff's vision loss
had further deteriorated and could no longer be accommodated
by a glass magnifier. See IDOC's Answer at 6,
Dkt. 40. As a result, the IDOC ADA Coordinator and the Warden
of Dixon Correctional Center allowed Plaintiff to purchase a
more powerful magnifier, namely an “Aukey Portable
Video Magnifier/Rechargeable battery and cord.”
Plaintiff's Exhibit 4, Dkt. 42-1. Plaintiff was able to
read and study his textbooks with the assistance of his Aukey
portable video magnifier.
2014, Plaintiff's Aukey portable video magnifier broke.
The device was replaced for Plaintiff at no charge in
December 2014. See IDOC's Answer at 7, Dkt. 40;
Plaintiff's Exhibit 25, Dkt. 42-1.
continued to take college courses through 2015, until
academic courses were no longer available at Dixon
Correctional Center due to the State of Illinois' budget
impasse. However, Plaintiff was able to earn his Real Estate
certificate during this time because correspondence courses
were still offered during the budget impasse. Correspondence
courses are not offered through the IDOC, but an inmate could
sign up directly with the program.
2014, Dr. Hicks referred Plaintiff to see an ophthalmologist
to determine what low vision aids Plaintiff required to
improve his quality of life. Plaintiff's Exhibit 7, Dkt.
42-1. Plaintiff was referred to ophthalmologist Dr. J.
Friedrichs, who in turn referred Plaintiff to a retina
specialist. Id. This referral was ultimately
approved by Dixon's medical director and Wexford in
August 2017. Id; Plaintiff's Exhibit 8, Dkt.
42-1. Plaintiff was seen by a retina specialist in September
2014, who referred him to another specialist specifically for
an evaluation for low vision aids. Plaintiff's Exhibit 9,
Dkt. 42-1. This referral was approved by Dixon's medical
director and Wexford in September 2014. Plaintiff's
Exhibit 10, Dkt. 42-1. Plaintiff was seen by the requested
specialist, who in turn referred Plaintiff to a vision
rehabilitation specialist. This referral was ultimately
approved by Dixon's medical director and Wexford in
January 2015. Plaintiff's Exhibit 12, Dkt. 42-1.
February 2015, Plaintiff was evaluated by Dr. Joan Stelmack,
an optometrist specializing in low vision rehabilitation.
Plaintiff's Exhibit 16, Dkt. 42-1. Based on this
evaluation, Dr. Stelmack prescribed the following low vision
aids for Plaintiff: (1) a monocular for distance spot
checking; (2) an Amigo HD portable desktop magnifier for
reading, noting that Plaintiff's current Aukey portable
video magnifier had too small of a screen to allow Plaintiff
to read and write; (3) a folding cane for mobility; and (4) a
bright task light. Plaintiff's Exhibit 16, Dkt. 42-1. Dr.
Stelmack informed Dixon Correctional Center that she planned
to fax her specific recommendations regarding the low vision
aids as soon as she could get the model numbers and prices
for the items. Plaintiff's Exhibit 17, Dkt. 42-1. Dr.
Stelmack's prescription for the four visual aids was
approved by Dixon's medical director in March 2015.
on March 27, 2015, Wexford denied the request for a folding
cane, a task light and a monocular because these three items
needed to be inspected by the warden or Dixon's security
unit to ensure they would be acceptable at the
prison.Plaintiff's Exhibit 18, Dkt. 42-1. On
December 11, 2016, Dixon's security unit determined that
it was unable to inspect and approve the items prior to being
purchased. IDOC's Exhibit 9 at 16, Dkt. 54; see
also Plaintiff's Exhibit 29, Dkt. 42-1. Accordingly,
on December 16, 2015, Wexford denied all four of the
requested visual aids because Dixon's security unit had
“denied” the items. Plaintiff's Exhibit 19,
Dkt. 42-1. Wexford refused to purchase the items for a
security inspection, despite evidence from Dixon's
medical director that the items could be returned if
Dixon's security unit did not approve them. See
IDOC's Exhibit 11 at 18, Dkt. 56.
hearing, Amber Allen testified that both she and Dixon's
medical director suggested that Wexford purchase the items
for a security inspection, noting that the items could be
returned. However, Wexford still denied their request. Amber
Allen testified that although Dixon's security unit never
inspected the Amigo HD portable desktop magnifier that Dr.
Stelmack prescribed, after reviewing the item online, the
security unit noted the following concerns: (1) the cord used
to charge the electronic magnifier could also be used to
charge a cellular telephone; (2) the magnifier was larger
than the Aukey portable video magnifier Plaintiff previously
used; and (3) the glass on the magnifier could be broken or
mishandled. Amber Allen further testified that she believed
all four items were grouped together and ultimately denied
based on the noted security concerns for the Amigo HD
portable desktop magnifier.
response to the denial of his visual aids, Plaintiff filed a
grievance. Plaintiff's Exhibit 20, Dkt. 42-1. In March
2016, Dixon's ADA Coordinator responded to
Plaintiff's grievance, noting that Dixon's security
unit denied the requested items because they were unable to
perform a security inspection without purchasing them.
Plaintiff's Exhibit 21, Dkt. 42-1. The ADA Coordinator
recommended, and Dixon's Warden agreed, that the visual
aids should be reviewed for security concerns, noting that
the items were likely returnable if they were not approved.
Id. However, no such security inspection ever
2016, Plaintiff's Aukey portable video magnifier was
broken during a shakedown of his cell. However, Plaintiff did
not receive a replacement and instead received a plastic
sheet magnifier in October 2016. Plaintiff's Exhibit 23,
Dkt. 42-1. In response, Plaintiff filed a grievance to
complain that he had not received a replacement Aukey
portable video magnifier for the one that was broken or any
other visual aids that were prescribed by Dr. Stelmack.
Plaintiff's Exhibit 24, Dkt. 42-1. In January 2017,
Plaintiff's grievance was ultimately ...