United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Herndon Judge United States District Judge
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, 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).
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.
these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's
claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.
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.
of Clothing and Bedding
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 ...