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Matthews v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 13, 2018

RAYMOND MATTHEWS, #R33172, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Raymond Matthews, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Hill Correctional Center (“Hill”), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). (Doc. 1). According to the Complaint, Menard inmates were placed on a gallery-wide commissary restriction after a single inmate made too much noise in his cell. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-11). When Plaintiff complained about the restriction, the defendants allegedly took retaliatory disciplinary action against him that led to his punishment with a disciplinary ticket and placement in segregation. Id. Plaintiff now asserts claims against the officials who were involved in this conduct under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Doc. 1, p. 1). He seeks declaratory judgment and monetary damages. (Doc. 1, p. 19).

         This matter is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         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 any reasonable person would find meritless. 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. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).


         While housed in Menard's North 2 Cell House (8 Gallery) on March 8, 2016, Plaintiff overheard a correctional officer tell several inmates in the general population that they were not authorized to shop in the prison's commissary. (Doc. 1, p. 5). One of these inmates responded by banging on the bars of his cell. Id. Officer Jorden Sparling heard the commotion and announced that every inmate in 8 Gallery would be placed on a commissary and shopping restriction. Id.

         Plaintiff “expressed his objection” to this decision and asked Officer Sparling for permission to speak with his supervisor. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Officer Sparling assured Plaintiff that his supervisor approved of the restriction. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). When Plaintiff requested a grievance form, the officer told him that his supervisor would not allow him to distribute them to inmates. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff explained that he had a right to purchase writing materials and mail supplies necessary to access the courts, as well as hygiene products necessary for self-care. Id. He also told Officer Sparling that he was “abusing his authority” by denying him access to the commissary and forms. Id. Officer Sparling assured Plaintiff that he definitely would not be going to the commissary after threatening the officer with grievances and lawsuits. Id. Plaintiff requested a crisis intervention counselor instead. Id.

         Around the same time, a mental health professional (Ms. Franklin) was making rounds. (Doc. 1, p. 6). She put Plaintiff in contact with a counselor named Ms. Meyer. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). Plaintiff met with Ms. Meyer and told her about the events that transpired in 8 Gallery that day. (Doc. 1, p. 7). As Plaintiff left the appointment to return to his cell, Officer Sparling told him that he should “think twice” before threatening to sue the officer and requesting crisis intervention. Id. Officer Sparling then took Plaintiff to segregation, where all of his property was confiscated. Id.

         Plaintiff was placed in a dirty cell and denied hygiene items, cleaning supplies and a floor rug. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Bright lights illuminated his cell day and night. (Doc. 1, p. 9). He was issued a single suicide mattress, blanket and smock. Id. He was denied showers, recreation, books, writing materials and mail supplies. Id. Correctional officers, including Officer Sparling, regularly appeared at Plaintiff's cell and taunted or threatened him not to tell mental health unless he wanted to “accidentally commit suicide.” Id.

         Officer Sparling issued Plaintiff a disciplinary ticket the same day for intimidation and threats (DR 504 #206), insolence (DR 504 #304) and disobeying a direct order (DR 504 #403). (Doc. 1, p. 7). He received the ticket before a hearing investigator had an opportunity to investigate the matter. Id.

         Plaintiff again asked to speak with the crisis intervention team on March 12, 2016. (Doc. 1, p. 7). He met with Ms. Meyer the same day and complained of anxiety and depression resulting from the events that transpired on March 8, 2016. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Ms. Meyer placed Plaintiff on suicide watch. Id. He was moved from his segregation cell (North 2 #242) to another cell (North 2 #505). Id. Property that was returned to him one day earlier was again confiscated, including the clothes he was wearing. Id. In protest of “all these actions, ” Plaintiff went on a hunger strike on March 14, 2016. Id.

         The next day, Plaintiff was found guilty of disciplinary violations at an adjustment committee hearing that he was not allowed to attend. (Doc. 1, p. 8). He was punished with 3 months of C-grade, commissary restriction and segregation. (Doc. 1-1, p. 6). The final disciplinary hearing report indicated that Plaintiff “refused to attend the hearing.” (Doc. 1, p. 8; Doc. 1-1, p. 6).

         On March 16, 2016, Plaintiff again spoke with Ms. Meyer. (Doc. 1, p. 9). She agreed to take him off of suicide watch and return his personal property items to him (e.g., hygiene supplies, bedding, property and clothes). Id. Despite these assurances, Plaintiff remained on suicide watch under the same conditions described above until April 6, 2016. Id. He blames this on a conspiracy between the mental health professionals and prison staff. Id.

         On March 17, 2016, Major Carter and Lieutenant Koehn spoke with Plaintiff about the reason for his hunger strike. (Doc. 1, p. 9). After Plaintiff told them about the disciplinary ticket, the officers stated that they believed Plaintiff “didn't do what . . . Sparling accused him of [doing].” Id. Plaintiff ...

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