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Little v. Sullivan

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 14, 2019

VALEN LITTLE, #M53843, Plaintiff,
v.
DANIEL SULLIVAN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Valen Little, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) currently incarcerated at Big Muddy River Correctional Center (“Big Muddy”), brings this action for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; he seeks monetary damages. (Doc. 1). The Complaint is now before the Court for preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the Court to screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of the Complaint that is legally frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or requests money damages from an immune defendant must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges there are no cameras or panic buttons at Big Muddy and that this is a safety issue. (Doc. 1, p. 7). He further alleges that there would be “no proof” in the event of an altercation between an inmate and correctional staff. Id. He names Warden Daniel Sullivan as the only defendant, on the basis that the Warden “is responsible for cameras.” (Doc. 1, p. 1). He asserts his Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights have been violated because all other IDOC facilities have cameras and panic buttons. Based on these allegations, the Court designates the following counts:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement due to a lack of cameras and panic buttons.
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim for failure to protect due to a lack of cameras and panic buttons.
Count 3: Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim due to a lack of cameras and panic buttons at Big Muddy when all other IDOC facilities have such equipment.

         The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designations do not constitute an opinion regarding their merit. Any other intended claim that has not been recognized by the Court is considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pleaded under the Twombly pleading standard.[1]

         Discussion

         Counts 1 and 2

         Regardless of how Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim is characterized-as a conditions of confinement or failure to protect claim-the allegations must at least suggest that the lack of cameras and panic buttons at Big Muddy amounts to deliberate indifference. An Eighth Amendment claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement arises when a defendant responds to a substantial risk of harm posed to a plaintiff's health or safety with deliberate indifference. McNeil v. Lane, 16 F.3d 123, 124 (7th Cir. 1994). Similarly, a failure to protect claim arises when a plaintiff is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm and the defendant acted with deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's health or safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 837 (1994); Santiago v. Walls, 599 F.3d 749, 756 (7th Cir.2010). “[A] generalized risk of violence is not enough, for prisons are inherently dangerous places.” Wilson v. Ryker, 451 Fed.Appx. 588, 589 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff “must allege a tangible threat to his safety or well-being” and “a substantial risk of future harm.” Id. “A substantial risk of serious harm is one in which the risk is so great that it is almost certain to materialize if nothing is done.” Id.

         Plaintiff has not alleged a substantial risk of harm to his health or safety. Accordingly, the Complaint does not support a conditions of confinement or failure to protect claim against Warden Sullivan, and Counts 1 and 2 will be dismissed without prejudice.

         Count 3

         Plaintiff asserts his Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights have been violated because all other IDOC facilities have cameras and panic buttons. A prima facie case of discrimination under the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause requires a plaintiff to show that he “is a member of a protected class, ” that he “is otherwise similarly situated to members of the unprotected class, ” and that he “was treated differently from members of the unprotected class.” Brown v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 916 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting McNabola v. Chicago Transit ...


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