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Jones v. Hanes

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 15, 2019

WILLIAM E. JONES, Plaintiff,


          J. Phil Gilbert, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff William E. Jones, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who is currently incarcerated at Graham Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that his privacy rights were violated while he was a pretrial detainee at the Jefferson County Justice Center.

         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).

         The Complaint

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff makes the following allegations: Plaintiff arrived at the Jefferson County Justice Center on December 28, 2018 and was placed in a cell by Lt. Jane Doe (also known as Nancy). (Doc. 1, p. 1). The security camera outside the cell had a direct view of the shower and toilet in Plaintiff's cell. Plaintiff put up a blanket to give him privacy from the camera and Lt. Hanes told him to take the blanket down or he would be written a ticket. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants violated his privacy rights by having the camera in direct view of the toilet.


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

Count 1:Lt. Jane Doe (Nancy) and Lt. Hanes violated Plaintiff's constitutional right to privacy by placing him in a cell with a security camera directly in view of his shower and toilet.

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

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his privacy by placing him in a cell where a security camera had a direct view of his shower and toilet. He was also not allowed to put up a sheet to protect his privacy while he used the bathroom in view of the camera.

         At best, prisoners have “very limited privacy rights.” Franklin v. McCaughtry, 110 Fed.Appx. 715, 719 (7th Cir. 2004) (citing Anderson v. Romero, 72 F.3d 518, 522 (7th Cir. 1995)). Those rights, however, are limited due to the realities of confinement, most importantly the need to maintain security and order in jails and prisons. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545-46 (1979) (“There must be mutual accommodation between institutional needs and objectives and the provisions of the Constitution that are of general application.”) (internal quotation omitted). The Seventh Circuit has found that a prison has a “very strong interest in having guards observe prisoners at all times and in all situations.” Canedy v. Boardman, 91 F.3d 30, 34 (7th Cir. 1996). This is because constant observation provides for a more secure facility. See Canedy v. Boardman, 16 F.3d 183, 186 (7th Cir. 1994) (in suit relating to constitutionality of female guards observing male inmates in states of undress and during private settings, court noted that “prison officials have an obvious interest in security.”).

         Neither detainees nor prisoners have a right to be free from reasonable surveillance. For instance, a prisoner retains no expectation of privacy in his cell under the Fourth Amendment. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 523-30 (1984). Likewise, the Seventh Circuit has found no protected privacy interest at stake, in the context of jail policies that expose nude male detainees to female guards. Johnson v. Phelan, 69 F.3d 144, 146 (7th Cir. 1995) (holding that female prison guards can monitor male detainees who are in the shower or on the toilet). Indeed, the “monitoring of naked prisoners is not only permissible…but also sometimes mandatory.” Matthews v. Raemisch, 513 Fed.Appx. 605, 608 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Johnson, 69 F.3d at 146).

         Considering the above, the fact that Plaintiff was placed in a cell with a surveillance camera that could see him while in the toilet or shower, standing on its own, does not state a claim. The use of a camera in a detainees' cell that observes all parts of the cell is clearly in furtherance of the jail's very strong interest in constant observation of the detainees.

         D ...

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