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Hardenn v. Jeffreys

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 29, 2019

TONY W. HARDEN, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Tony W. Harden, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who is currently incarcerated at Big Muddy River Correctional Center (“Big Muddy”), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges his constitutional rights as a civil detainee under the Illinois Sexually Dangerous Persons Act (“SDPA”), 725 ILCS 205/1.01 et seq., have been violated repeatedly by the defendants. He asserts claims against the defendants under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff sues the defendants in their official capacities only and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.

         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).

         Initially, the Court must independently evaluate the substance of Plaintiff's claims to determine if the correct statute - in this case 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or 28 U.S.C. § 2254 - is being invoked. A petition for a writ of habeas corpus is the proper route “[i]f the prisoner is seeking what can fairly be described as a quantum change in the level of custody-whether outright freedom, or freedom subject to the limited reporting and financial constraints of bond or parole or probation.” Graham v. Broglin, 922 F.2d 379, 381 (7th Cir. 1991). If, however, the prisoner “is seeking a different program or location or environment, then he is challenging the conditions rather than the fact of confinement and his remedy is under civil rights law.” Id.; see also Pischke v. Litscher, 178 F.3d 497, 500 (7th Cir. 1999).

         Part of Plaintiff's claim alleges that he is being improperly held and seeks immediate release. (Doc. 1, p. 17 and 49). To the extent he challenges the fact of his confinement and seeks immediate release, Plaintiff has a single federal remedy-a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Section 1983 provides him with no avenue to this relief. He cannot pursue his request for immediate release in this action. To the extent that he seeks declaratory and injunctive relief for the conditions and care that he is receiving under the SDPA, the Court will review his claims pursuant to Section 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff's Complaint is long, rambling, and difficult to read. The Court has done its best to summarize Plaintiff's claims in his Complaint as follows: Plaintiff is a civilly committed pretrial detainee at Big Muddy who has been incarcerated as a sexually dangerous person under the SDPA since 1998. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff was ordered released from custody on conditional release conditions on February 26, 2014, but remained at Big Muddy for 37 months beyond his release date because the IDOC Director would not provide him with the necessary conditions needed for release including proper housing, living expenses, and outside care. (Id. at pp. 6, 19-20, 23, and 31). He was finally released when his family and friends provided the necessary conditions. (Id. at p. 20). On release he was treated like a convicted offender and required to wear a GPS monitor and obtain prior approval for movement outside the home. (Id. at pp. 10 and 32). Due to the failure to provide Plaintiff with adequate release conditions, he was eventually revoked and returned to Big Muddy. (Id. at pp. 7, 21, and 23).

         Since his return to Big Muddy, Plaintiff has been subject to a system which he describes as “punitive, inadequate, ineffective, non-therapeutic, harmful, and detrimental.” (Doc. 1, p. 40). Plaintiff alleges that the defendants, in their official capacities, have put in place policies and practices which are inadequate for the treatment of Plaintiff, as a civilly committed SDP. (Id. at p. 18). He asserts that he is treated like an ordinary prisoner and is not provided with proper care.

         Specifically, he shares facilities and resources with general population inmates and is subjected to the same strip searches, lockdowns, shakedowns, disciplinary tickets, and harassment from guards as the convicted inmates. (Doc. 1, p. 6, 9, 33). He is locked in his cell from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (Id. at p. 26). He is also required to purchase all of his clothing and supplies from the commissary like other convicted inmates. (Id. at pp. 27 and 38). He also receives the same diet as inmates in general population. (Id. at p. 51).

         The funding for the SDP program comes from the general funds for Big Muddy, and the program receives “peanuts” which limits the care that Plaintiff receives. (Id. at p. 9 and 35). The program is unlicensed, lacks any exit strategy, is severally understaffed, lacks any assistance once released, and is designed to be punitive. (Id. at pp. 19 and 26). There is no qualified oversight or liaison to represent Plaintiff. (Id. at p. 36). Plaintiff receives no individualized treatment, and his treatment is not designed to hasten his release. (Id. at p. 24). He receives only one hour per week of group therapy, and because the groups are so large, he may have to wait 8 to 12 weeks to attend a group. (Id.). His current therapist, Jessica Stover, is biased and bases her evaluations of Plaintiff on personal opinions rather than scientific criteria and an independent evaluation. (Id. at p. 25). His assessments are not tailored to SDPs and, thus, reflect deceptive scoring. (Id. at p. 36). He does not have access to college, vocational, or other rehabilitative services. (Id. at p. 26). Although he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, he does not receive treatment for those conditions, nor is he offered alcohol and drug treatment. (Id. at p. 8 and 29-30). Despite completing all of his required psychiatric treatments, he is kept in custody and “recycled through treatment [he has] already…received.” (Id. at pp. 22 and 31).

         Plaintiff now sues J.B. Pritzker (Governor of Illinois), Rob Jeffreys (IDOC Director), Daniel Q. Sullivan (Warden of Big Muddy), and Sarah Brown (SDP Program Administrator) in their official capacities for violating his rights as an SDP.


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

Count 1: Defendants violated Plaintiff's right to receive treatment and rehabilitation for his mental illnesses and ...

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