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Roman v. Hileman

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 20, 2018

MARTIN ROMAN, # M-19956, Plaintiff,


          Herndon Judge United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendants have knowingly housed him in unsanitary and unhealthy living conditions at Shawnee, and have failed to mitigate those conditions. Along with the Complaint, Plaintiff has filed a motion seeking a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and preliminary injunction. (Doc. 5). This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint 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). 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).

         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).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff arrived at Shawnee in October 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 6). According to the Complaint, during his incarceration at Shawnee, Plaintiff has been assigned to cells with serious deficiencies and Defendants have failed to remedy these deficiencies. Plaintiff generally alleges that, since October 2017, he has been exposed to the following conditions:

Plaintiff has been denied and exposed to dangerous substances such as a[s]bestos substances, black mold, contaminated water, and spoiled food, inadequate clothing at Shawnee C.C., span of a[n] 8 month period. Plaintiff has been housed in a mice, bat infested environment, a sealed shut cell window, clogged up rusted ventilation vents. Soiled, stained, urine mattresses, molded shower area, freezing, and severely hot cell, excessive heat, lo[o]se floor tiles, peeled off lead paint, bed with springs missing, which caused plaintiff to have back issues. Plaintiff has been exposed to TB, and tested positive since his stay in this unsanitary environment. Also no hot water, unoperational sinks in the dayroom, dirty, molded, shower curtains, rusted shower vents, leaking ceiling, no emergency buttons in the cell.

(Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff goes on to describe his exposure to the above conditions in more detail. The following is a summary of the relevant allegations.

         Provision of Clothing and Bedding

         Shortly after arriving at Shawnee, officials sent Plaintiff to the clothing department. When Plaintiff arrived at the clothing department, Correctional Officer Hileman and his inmate assistant issued Plaintiff's clothing and bedding material. (Doc. 1, p. 8). The clothing was soiled, ripped, and not suitable for cold weather. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9). The mattress was soiled with rust, urine, and fecal matter, and Plaintiff did not receive a mattress cover to protect him from the contaminants on the soiled mattress. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9). The sheets and blanket Plaintiff received were soiled and torn. Id. Hileman disregarded Plaintiff's complaints and told him he would not be eligible for new sheets for two years. Id. He also indicated that the issued clothing was the only clothing Plaintiff would ever receive while incarcerated at Shawnee, so he better take care of it. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-10).

         Receiving Cell

         When Plaintiff first arrived at Shawnee, he was assigned to a cell in receiving. (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 11). The cell had a broken window that could not be closed. Id. As a result, Plaintiff endured extremely cold temperatures and strong winds for 14 days. Id. During this time, Plaintiff only had a jumpsuit and could not stay warm. Id.

         Plaintiff was given a mattress, two sheets, and a blanket. Id. All of the items were unsanitary. The sheets and mattress were soiled with urine and fecal matter. Id. The sheets were torn and the blanket had a large hole. Id. Plaintiff speculates that he was exposed to scabies, bedbugs, MRSA, and/or other diseases. Id. Plaintiff also contends that the flooring was loose, exposing him to friable asbestos, the paint was peeling off of the walls, and the ventilation was clogged and rusted. Id. Additionally, the light fixture cover was broken, with dangling pieces of rusty metal that could be made into a weapon. Id.

         Plaintiff complained to an unidentified correctional officer about his mattress and asked for a mattress cover. Id. The correctional officer laughed and said, “This is Shawnee, we don't provide mattress covers, and you have not seen nothing yet.” Id.

         Subsequent Cell Assignment

         On October 20, 2017, Plaintiff was transferred to the general population and assigned to cell 2-D-73. (Doc. 1, p. 12). As of the filing of this action, Plaintiff was still housed in cell 2-D-73. (Doc. 1, p. 12).

         According to the Complaint, the ventilation in Plaintiff's cell is clogged with rust and dust, preventing fresh air from entering the room. (Doc. 1, p. 13). Mice enter Plaintiff's cell under the cell door. Id. The mice have eaten through Plaintiff's property and commissary items, and Plaintiff's cell contains mice feces. Id. Plaintiff claims that officials know Shawnee has a mouse infestation, but only treat the outside of the cell house for vermin. Id.

         Initially, the window in Plaintiff's cell was broken and could not be closed, exposing Plaintiff to extreme temperatures and vermin. (Doc. 1, p. 12). In November 2017, Defendants Warden Dennison, Assistant Warden Walker, Chief Engineer Neighbors, and Assistant Chief Engineer Schumake ordered employees to screw all broken windows in the institution shut. (Doc. 1, pp. 12-14). The windows, including the window in Plaintiff's cell, were covered with thick plastic sheeting and sealed with duct tape. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Pursuant to Shawnee policy, the windows remain sealed for six months (from approximately October through April), hindering air circulation and eliminating fresh air. (Doc. 1, pp. 12-14). Air circulation is also hindered by the dirt and rust that covers the screen on Plaintiff's cell door. (Doc. 1, p. 15). Plaintiff “has breathing issues and it has been difficult [for him] to breath based on poor air and ventilation throughout the cellhouse.” (Doc. 1, p. 13). Plaintiff claims that Defendants Dennison, Walker, Neighbors, and Schumake are aware of the poor air circulation in Plaintiff's cell, have not taken any steps to remedy the problems, and have disregarded Plaintiff's health and safety. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

         In approximately April 2017, Plaintiff's window was unsealed. (Doc. 1, pp. 14-16). The window can now be opened and closed, but there are large holes in the window screen. (Doc. 1, p. 16). As a result, when the window is open, vermin (spiders, bats, gnats, bees, and ants) come through the window into Plaintiff's cell. Therefore, Plaintiff, who has sinus problems, can only get fresh air by opening the window and allowing vermin to enter his cell. Id.

         For the last two weeks, the sink in Plaintiff's cell has been clogged and is emitting a foul sewage smell. (Doc. 1, p. 13). The running water in Plaintiff's cell is cold, has a foul odor, and is rust colored. Id. Plaintiff has no access to hot water. Id. Plaintiff complained to an unidentified correctional officer about his sink, but it has not been fixed.

         Plaintiff's toilet has been clogged several times. (Doc. 1, p. 13). It took Defendants Howton and Burns (described as being plumbers at Shawnee) five days to fix the toilet. Id. The sink in Plaintiff's cell has been clogged for two weeks and smells foul. Id. Plaintiff complained to an unidentified correctional officer about his sink and the correctional officer indicated he would submit a maintenance request on Plaintiff's behalf. As of the filing of the Complaint, Plaintiff's sink had not been fixed. Id.

         Plaintiff is presently sleeping on a thin mattress soiled with urine. Id. Plaintiff does not have a mattress cover or a pillow. Id. The mattress also has a large hole and is missing springs. (Doc. 1, p. 16). Plaintiff claims that Defendants are aware of these conditions but have done nothing to remedy the situation. (Doc. 1, p. 16).

         The paint in Plaintiff's cell is peeling, possibly exposing Plaintiff to lead. (Doc. 1, pp. 14-15). Plaintiff also alleges that the cells at Shawnee, including his cell, have loose floor tiles, mold, vermin, and “other fatal substances.” (Doc. 1, p. 15). According to the Complaint, these conditions are common throughout the prison and correctional officers have complained about the conditions for years, to no avail. Id.

         Shawnee's cell doors can be “popped open” by inmates from outside the cells, placing inmates in danger. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Additionally, the internal cell buttons often do not work, meaning inmates are often unable to open their cells to attend meals ...

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