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Kammeyer v. True

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 26, 2019

JAMES R. KAMMEYER, JR., Plaintiff,


          J. Phil Gilbert United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff James Kammeyer, an inmate with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) who is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary located in Marion, Illinois (“USP Marion”), brings this action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of federal authority that occurred in connection with prison restrictions imposed after several incidents involving drug overdoses. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) and the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671 -2680. Plaintiff seeks injunctive and monetary relief and has filed a motion to certify the Complaint as a class action on behalf of all inmates housed at USP Marion.

         This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of a 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 must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

         In the Complaint, Plaintiff makes the following allegations: In March of 2019, a number of inmates at USP Marion suffered overdoses from ingesting mixtures of synthetic drugs and industrial chemicals. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4). As a result of the overdoses, USP Marion was placed on lockdown status from March 30, 2019, until April 8, 2019, and additional restrictions were implemented. Id. at p. 4. Plaintiff received a memo written and signed by Warden True, on April 1, 2019, announcing that the entire inmate population would be sanctioned for the drug abuse. Id. Specifically, inmates would be limited to one five-minute phone call and five outgoing emails per day, and the monthly commissary spending limit would be reduced from $360 a month to $100. Id.; see also Doc. 1-1, p. 3. Additionally, any inmate caught with drugs would be referred for prosecution. Id. The next day, Plaintiff received a second memo directing all inmates to pack three trash bags with their personal belongings: (1) one for personal property; (2) one for institution-issued clothing; and (3) one for excess personal property, which could be mailed home at the inmate's own expense. (Doc. 1, p. 4; see also Doc. 1-1, p. 5). After all inmates packed their bags, USP Marion staff conducted a shakedown of the entire facility on April 3 and 4, 2019. Id. Captain Stickles supervised staff during the shakedown in Plaintiff's housing unit. Id. at p. 5. During the shakedown, staff threw away excess personal property that did not fit into a bag into trash bins. Id. Staff did not provide information regarding the ability to mail excess property home or provide confiscation forms for any property seized in accordance with BOP policy. Id. Staff also destroyed all microwave ovens in inmate housing units that had been purchased with inmate funds. Id.

         After the lockdown ended on April 9, 2019, more inmates overdosed and Warden True issued another memo lowering the monthly commissary spending limit to $75. Id.; see also Doc. 1-1, p. 7.

         During the week of April 8, 2019, Plaintiff witnessed Warden True in the lunchroom become hostile toward inmates trying to speak with him. Id. at p. 6. He also heard Warden True tell inmates that “he wanted the drug problem solved ‘however [inmates] have to do it, '… and that if the inmates wanted the mass sanctions lifted, inmates should ‘enforce the rules' against other inmates who were suspected drug users or distributors.” Id.

         Warden True, Captain Stickles, and Chief Technician for the Special Investigative Services Huggins met collectively and individually with the heads of various inmate groups around April 11, 2019, and “instructed them to ‘police [their] own.' If inmates continued overdosing, they said, just drag them into a cell ‘so we don't see it.'” Id. Warden True stated that there would not be consequences for anyone who acted, even violently, against drug users. Id. This authorized self-enforcement has resulted in an increased number of violent attacks at USP Marion. Id. at p. 7. After one violent incident between inmates, staff had to close an entire housing unit and temporarily relocate the occupants for hours to clean up the blood. Id.

         Warden True has since threatened to implement further restrictions and lockdown the facility if inmates do not take part in stopping the drug abuse problem. Id. Inmates, including Plaintiff, attempted to organize a food strike in protest of the restrictions. Id. at p. 8. Plaintiff was threatened with retaliation by True, Stickles, Huggins, and other staff if he participated, and also threatened with violence by other inmates if he did not participate. Id. Ultimately, Plaintiff did not participate. Id.

         Due to the threats of violence by other inmates instigated by True, Stickles, and Huggins and the retaliation against inmates by staff, Plaintiff has suffered severe anxiety. Id. Plaintiff claims that the various forms of mass punishment and directing inmates to self-regulate the drug problem on the part of Defendants has caused fear, mental anguish, and misery, exacerbating the violent conditions of prison life. Id. at pp. 1, 8-9. True, Stickles, and Huggins have displayed deliberate indifference by encouraging the violence and “turning a blind eye when such assaults occur.” Id. at p. 9.

         Preliminary Matters

         Plaintiff claims that because Defendants have used mass punishment and encouraged inmate self-enforcement of the antidrug policy the safety of the general inmate population is threatened and violent attacks, tension, and anxiety among the population have increased. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 6, 7, 9). He also alleges that during the shakedown, staff destroyed all microwave ovens in inmate housing units purchased with inmate funds and disposed of other inmates' property. Id. at p. 5. Plaintiff, however, is only entitled to assert his own rights. Massey v. Helman, 196 F.3d 727, 739-40 (7th Cir. 1999). Thus, the Court will only consider the alleged harms to Plaintiff, not to the inmate population generally.


         Based on the allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following seven counts:

Count 1: First Amendment retaliation claim against True, Stickles, and Huggins.
Count 2: First Amendment claim for violating Plaintiff's right to access the courts.
Count 3: Fifth Amendment claim against True and Stickles for seizing and discarding Plaintiff's property during the penitentiary wide shakedown on April 3 and 4, 2019.
Count 4: Eighth Amendment claim for cruel and unusual punishment against True, Stickles, and Huggins for implementing mass punishment on the entire inmate population.
Count 5: Eighth Amendment claim against True, Stickles, and Huggins for failure to protect Plaintiff from threats ...

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