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Adams v. Shawnee Correctional Center Warden

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 26, 2019

ROBERT CHRISTOPHER ADAMS, #K67019, Plaintiff,
v.
SHAWNEE CORRECTIONAL CENTER WARDEN, SHAWNEE CORRECTIONAL CENTER, ILLINOIS DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, JOHN DOE 1, and JOHN DOE 2, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Nancy J. Rosenstengel Chief U.S. District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court for preliminary review of the Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 17) filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Plaintiff Robert Adams, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who is currently detained at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”). Plaintiff claims that Shawnee officials denied him winter clothing before releasing him into dangerously cold conditions. (Doc. 17, pp. 6-8). He brings an Eighth Amendment claim for money damages against the defendants. (Id. at p. 9).

         This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Third Amended 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).

         Third Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff makes the following allegations in the Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 17, pp. 6-9): Plaintiff was released from custody without any winter clothing or gear in January 2018. (Doc. 17, p. 6; Doc. 15, p. 7). Before his release, Plaintiff complained of subzero temperatures outside and requested a winter coat, boots, gloves, hat, and scarf. (Id. at p. 6). Pursuant to IDOC policy, he was supposed to receive many of these items when he was taken into custody. (Id. at p. 7). But the items were never issued or confiscated before his release. Plaintiff's request for appropriate winter clothing was denied by Shawnee's clothing room supervisor (“John Doe 1”), a correctional officer (“John Doe 2”), and the warden (“Warden Doe”). (Id. at p. 6). Plaintiff was then transported to Chicago and released into dangerously cold and snowy conditions wearing a “summer” shirt, pants, and cloth shoes. (Id. at pp. 7-8). He suffered from what appears to have been prolonged exposure to these conditions and developed symptoms of frostbite and a cold. (Id.). Plaintiff claims that the defendants' failure to provide him with appropriate clothing while still in IDOC custody violated his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. (Id.).

         The Third Amended Complaint focuses on a single claim, which the parties and the Court will use in all future pleadings and orders:

Count 1: Defendants violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights by denying him adequate winter clothing and gear during his incarceration and just before releasing him from custody in January 2018, resulting in symptoms of frostbite and a cold from prolonged exposure to frigid, snowy conditions.

         Any other claim that is mentioned in the Third Amended Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under the Twombly pleading standard.[1]

         Discussion

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits prison officials from depriving an incarcerated person of the “minimal civilized measures of life's necessities” including adequate heat and shelter. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337 (1981); Dixon v. Godinez, 114 F.3d 640 (7th Cir. 1997). Deliberately disregarding conditions that pose a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate's health and safety violate the amendment. Townsend v. Fuch, 522 F.3d 765, 773 (7th Cir. 2008). This includes conditions that pose a substantial risk of present harm and possible future harm to an inmate's health or safety. See, e.g., Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 36 (1993) (Eighth Amendment claim stated under future health rubric for exposure to environment tobacco smoke posing an unreasonable risk to inmate's future health).

         With that said, Eighth Amendment protections do not extend to the “usual discomforts of winter.” Mays v. Springborn, 575 F.3d 643, 648 (7th Cir. 2009). A plaintiff bringing a claim for exposure to cold conditions must show that he suffered from something more than the usual discomforts of the season, such as particularly cold conditions or prolonged exposure to them. Hurt ears, numb hands, and feelings of frostbite-absent allegations of prolonged exposure-are not enough. See id. (dismissing similar claim at summary judgment); but see Gillis v. Litscher, 468 F.3d 488, 490 (7th Cir. 2006) (Eighth Amendment claim stated where inmate was forced to sleep naked in a cold cell and walk around for 14 hours per day to keep warm); Dixon, 114 F.3d at 642-44 (Eighth Amendment claim arose where inmate denied clothing or bedding necessary to keep warm in cell with average temperature of forty degrees).

         The allegations in the Third Amended Complaint suggest that Plaintiff may have suffered from prolonged and extreme exposure to cold conditions because John Doe 1, John Doe 2, and/or Warden Doe knowingly denied him adequate winter clothing and gear during intake and/or release from confinement. Count 1 shall proceed against these defendants once they are identified.

         Plaintiff cannot pursue a request for money damages against the IDOC or Shawnee because they are not “persons” subject to suit under Section 1983. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (“[N]either a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are ‘persons' under § 1983.”); Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir. 2001) (Eleventh Amendment bars suits against states in federal court for money damages). Further, Plaintiff does adequately allege that a policy of the IDOC or prison resulted in the deprivation of his rights. His claim focuses on the conduct of the individual defendants who denied his request for appropriate clothing. The IDOC and Shawnee shall therefore be dismissed from this action with prejudice.

         Identification of ...


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