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Johnson v. Brannon

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

October 31, 2019

EDWARD A. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTINE BRANNON, et al., Defendants.

          MERIT REVIEW ORDER

          JOE BILLY McDADE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se files an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging deliberate indifference to his serious mental health needs and a violation of due process at the East Moline Correctional Center (“EMCC”). The case is before the Court for a merit review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. In reviewing the Complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, (7th Cir. 2013). However, conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Enough facts must be provided to "'state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Alexander v. U.S., 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013)(quoted cite omitted). While the pleading standard does not require “detailed factual allegations”, it requires “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Wilson v. Ryker, 451 Fed.Appx. 588, 589 (7th Cir. 2011) quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Plaintiff has filed a lengthy, confusing complaint, pleading a history of depression and anxiety. Plaintiff indicates that during a prior term of incarceration at the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), he was broke brutally raped by a staff member. After his release, Plaintiff developed a drug addiction and, at some point, was arrested and convicted for the unauthorized use of a weapon. When he was evaluated for “TASC” probation (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities), it was recommended that he undergo treatment, though it is not clear whether this was mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, or both.

         Plaintiff was subsequently sentenced to a second term in IDOC, presumably due to the weapons conviction. He was originally to be placed in a treatment program at Sheridan Correctional Center, based on the TASC recommendation. It appears, however, that there was a lack of bed space at Sheridan and Plaintiff was sent to Pontiac. Plaintiff subsequently grieved the Pontiac placement, asserting that it is a medium/maximum security facility and he was evaluated as only a minimum security risk. Plaintiff was later transferred to EMCC, a minimum security facility, which does not have a treatment program. Plaintiff complains that he has not yet been placed in a treatment program, that it takes two years to complete such a program, and that he has only two years remaining on his sentence.

         Despite revealing a history of only depression and anxiety, Plaintiff claims that he has been hearing voices telling him to kill others and believes others are trying to kill him. He claims that he needs a treatment program so he will be functional when released from custody. This is particularly important as a treatment program would provide him post-release services including help in securing housing and employment, and other support services not particularly identified.

         Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Genisio, a caseworker supervisor, has wrongfully postponed his transfer to another facility based on a disciplinary charge he received. Plaintiff explains that on May 4, 2019, he mistakenly entered the wrong room and was issued a disciplinary report for unauthorized movement. When Plaintiff subsequently approached Defendant Genisio regarding a transfer, Defendant told him he would not be eligible for 90 days, due to the disciplinary ticket.

         Plaintiff has grieved the issue of the 90-day transfer restriction and demanded that Defendant Genisio and Defendant Huton, a counselor, produce the policy which authorizes this. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants have either provided “less than competent” responses or have failed to respond altogether.

         On May 12, 2019, Plaintiff went before the Adjustment Committee for hearing on the disciplinary ticket. Plaintiff was found guilty and sentenced to seven days of unit restrictions. Plaintiff asserts that, as the Adjustment Committee did not impose a 90-day restriction on his transfer to another facility, Defendant Genisio wrongfully, and without due process, imposed this penalty. Plaintiff also implicates the EMCC Chief Administrative Officer (“CAO”) Brannon, asserting that Defendant Brannon wrongfully affirmed the transfer restriction. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants' actions were in violation of Ill.Admin.Code §504.20, which does not include transfer restriction as one of the penalties which may be imposed by the Adjustment Committee.

         Plaintiff also makes a vague claim that his current incarceration prevents “good time” which is assumed to be the accumulation of good time credits against his sentence. It is not clear, however, and Plaintiff does not affirmatively state, that if he were placed in a treatment program, he would have the ability to earn good time credits not available to him at EMCC.

         Plaintiff makes an additional claim against Defendant Flores, a mental health worker, asserting that she was deliberately indifferent to his serious mental health needs. Plaintiff alleges that on June 25, 2019, he told Sergeant Burgess, not a party, that he needed unspecified mental health intervention. Sergeant Burgess informed Defendant Flores who did not see him that day and, perhaps, did not see him at all. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant is the only mental health provider for 1300 inmates. He also appears to implicate Defendant Brannon in the alleged failure to provide mental health treatment.

         ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff's claims regarding the failure to provide a prison transfer are reviewed under the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than under the Eighth Amendment. See Walker v. Gardner, No. 16-297-, 2016 WL 6581870, at *1 (W.D. Wis. Nov. 4, 2016) (the failure to transfer prisoner for drug treatment did not allege a deprivation of “the minimal civilized measures of life's necessities” so as to state an Eighth Amendment claim). It has been clearly established that inmates generally do not have a due process interest as to prison transfers. Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225 (1976) (“[t]hat life in one prison is much more disagreeable than in another does not in itself signify that a Fourteenth Amendment liberty interest is implicated”). A constitutionally protected liberty interest may be at issue, however, if Plaintiff is subjected to conditions at one prison, which represent an atypical and significant hardship. Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 487 (1995).

         Here, however, Plaintiff does not complain of prison conditions at EMCC, only the lack of a treatment program. Prisoners do not, however, have a “liberty interest in rehabilitative or educational programs offered while in prison.” Walker, 2016 WL 6581870, at *2 citing Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 571 (7th Cir. 2000). See also, Long v. Wondra, No. 12-647, 2013 WL 12098999, at *5 (W.D. Wis. Sept. 16, 2013), aff'd, 553 Fed.Appx. 637 (7th Cir. 2014) (plaintiff's request for transfer to particular prison to receive treatment denied as not implicating a liberty interest). This is so, even if “the successful completion of such a program might result in early release from custody.” Id.

         Plaintiff states a colorable claim, however, that Defendant Flores was deliberately indifferent to his serious mental health needs on June 25, 2019, when she refused to see him. This claim will proceed. Plaintiff's allegations of deliberate indifference against Defendant Brannon appear based on her position as the CAO rather than own personal participation in the alleged violation. Section 1983 limits liability to public employees “for their own misdeeds, and not for anyone else's.” Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 595-96 (7th Cir.2009). Section 1983 liability is predicated on fault, so to be liable, a defendant must be “personally responsible for the deprivation of a constitutional right.” Sanville v. McCaughtry,266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir.2001) (quoting Chavez v. Ill. State Police,251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir.2001)). “A defendant will be deemed to have sufficient personal responsibility if he directed the conduct causing the constitutional violation, or if it ...


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