United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN CHIEF JUDGE
Andre Ruddock, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at
Robinson Correctional Center (“Robinson”), brings
this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional
rights at Centralia Correctional Center
(“Centralia”). (Doc. 1). According to the
Complaint, two former employees of Wexford Health Sources,
Inc., named Martha Cowgill and Veronica Lehman, were
permanently prohibited from visiting inmates in the Illinois
Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) in May 2016.
(Doc. 1, pp. 7-14). Both individuals were on Plaintiff's
list of approved visitors at the time the visitation
restriction was imposed. Id. Plaintiff claims that
Warden Robert Mueller and Assistant Warden Kevin Kink
instituted the ban in violation of his First Amendment right
to freedom of association and Fourteenth Amendment right to
due process of law. Id. He seeks declaratory
judgment and monetary damages. (Doc. 1, pp. 14-16). He also
requests reinstatement of his visitation privileges with both
case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the
Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which
(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
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.
to the allegations in the Complaint, Plaintiff has been in
custody since the age of sixteen. (Doc. 1, p. 8). He
anticipates being released when he is forty-six years old.
Id. His projected parole date is 2022. Plaintiff will
return to society as a middle-aged adult who “knows
nothing about the [twenty-first] century.” Id.
He has no family support system to help him with this
reintegration, and he wants to avoid the gang and drug scene
he encountered in Chicago as a teenager. Id.
his incarceration at Shawnee Correctional Center
(“Shawnee”), Plaintiff befriended two female
employees of Wexford Health Sources, Inc.
(“Wexford”), named Martha Cowgill and Veronica
Lehman. (Doc. 1, p. 7). At the time, Cowgill and Lehman
worked in Shawnee's health care unit (“HCU”).
Id. Plaintiff met both of them while serving as a
volunteer caretaker for terminally ill inmates. Id.
Plaintiff's friendship with Cowgill and Lehman survived
his transfer and their resignations from Shawnee.
after Plaintiff transferred to Centralia in March 2015,
Cowgill contacted him and informed him that she was no longer
employed by Wexford. (Doc. 1, p. 7). She expressed her desire
to help Plaintiff with his rehabilitation by offering him
moral and spiritual support. Id. Plaintiff submitted
a proposed Offender Visiting List containing Cowgill's
name pursuant to Department Rule 525(a), and the warden
approved it on May 7, 2015. Id. During the next
year, Cowgill visited Plaintiff twice each month without any
violations of facility regulations, department rules, state
law, or federal law. Id.
April 2016, Lehman also contacted Plaintiff and informed him
that she was no longer employed by Wexford. (Doc. 1, p. 7).
Like Cowgill, Lehman asked Plaintiff if she could visit him
at Centralia. Id. Plaintiff submitted another
Offender Visiting List to the warden that included both
Lehman's and Cowgill's names. Id. On May 6,
2016, Warden Mueller approved the new list. Id.
Lehman visited Plaintiff the next day. (Doc. 1, p. 8).
and Lehman made Plaintiff their “pet project.”
Id. They explained that they wanted to help him
reintegrate into society in Southern Illinois following his
release, by finding him a job and housing. Id. Their
goal was to remove Plaintiff from the “criminal
elements” in Chicago that led to his imprisonment.
Id. Cowgill's husband and other family members
were aware of this plan. Id. Lehman spoke with her
cousin about teaching Plaintiff to become a professional
horse trainer. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9).
plans for Plaintiff's rehabilitation were thwarted by
Warden Mueller and Assistant Warden Kink, who imposed a
permanent visitation restriction against Cowgill and Lehman
on May 13, 2016. (Doc. 1, p. 9). The two women were
prohibited from visiting Plaintiff and any other offender
indefinitely. Id. The ban extended to all IDOC
facilities. Id. Both wardens took the position that
the women had engaged in “inappropriate socialization,
” but they refused to explain what they meant by this.
term is not defined in the administrative directives or
department rules governing inmate visitations. (Doc. 1, p.
9). Plaintiff could find only one rule that might govern the
wardens' decision, and he quotes it in the Complaint, as
Employees who have been involved with offenders or former
employees who have either resigned or have been terminated as
a result of involvement with offenders may be permanently
restricted from visits if it is determined they may be a
threat to safety of security.
Id. (citing IDOC Rule 525). Plaintiff maintains that
this rule is inapplicable to Cowgill and Lehman because they
were not “employees” of the IDOC, and they did
not resign from or lose their jobs because of their
“involvement with offenders.” Id. They
resigned for “personal” or “family”
reasons. Id. He admittedly has no idea whether the
wardens even relied on this rule when imposing the ban.
contacted Warden Mueller and challenged the decision. (Doc.
1, p. 9). She asked for an explanation. Id. Although
Warden Mueller acknowledged that Cowgill visited the
plaintiff numerous times without incident, the warden refused
to clarify what he meant by “inappropriate
socialization.” Id. Cowgill then sent both
wardens a letter seeking further clarification, but they did
not respond. (Doc. 1, pp. 9-10). Lehman also called the
warden's office and spoke with a counselor. (Doc. 1, p.
10). The counselor explained that “inappropriate
socialization” meant “she was too familiar with
the plaintiff.” Id. Plaintiff spoke directly
to Warden Mueller about the restriction. Id. He
pointed out that Illinois Administrative Directive
05.01.106(II) § G7b.2 required the warden to outline the
incident leading to the restriction in a “Notice of
Restriction” letter. Id. The warden responded,
“This is my facility. I don't need a reason to
restrict someone from visiting you.” Id. He
then threatened to turn Plaintiff's life “upside
down” for pressing the issue. Id.
filed a grievance to complain about the restriction on July
1, 2016, and it was denied. (Doc. 1, p. 10). On December 13,
2016, he requested a 6-month review of the decision and
sought restoration of visitation privileges with Cowgill and
Lehman. Id. Warden Mueller denied the request.
Id. Plaintiff was informed that the restricted
visitors, not Plaintiff, were required to write a letter