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Thomas v. Reese

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 1, 2015

DARREYLL T. THOMAS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MICHAEL REESE, et al., Defendants-Appellees

Submitted: April 7, 2015. [*]

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. No. 13-cv-597-wmc--William M. Conley, Chief Judge.

DARREYLL T. THOMAS, Plaintiff - Appellant, Pro se, Portage, WI.

For MICHAEL REESE, Deputy, ROBIN HAMPTON, Deputy, ROB VAN NORMAN, Deputy, CHRISTOPHER LARSH, Deputy, Defendants - Appellees: Timothy J. Yanacheck, Attorney, Sheila M. Sullivan, Attorney, BELL, MOORE & RICHTER, S.C., Madison, WI.

For DANE COUNTY JAIL, Defendant - Appellee: Sheila M. Sullivan, Attorney, BELL, MOORE & RICHTER, S.C., Madison, WI.

Before EASTERBROOK, WILLIAMS, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 846

Hamilton, Circuit Judge.

Darreyll Thomas, a Wisconsin prisoner, alleges in this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that when he was in the Dane County Jail, several county correctional officers unlawfully used excessive force in the course of handcuffing him after he disobeyed an order. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants on the ground that Thomas had not exhausted his available administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). We conclude that administrative remedies were not actually available to Thomas, so we reverse and remand for proceedings on the merits. Our reasoning requires us to consider the relationship between the Dane County Jail's disciplinary procedures and its grievance procedures for complaints by prisoners.

At the time of the incident in 2012, Thomas alleges, he had a severe neck and back injury that, according to prison medical staff, required that he not sleep on a top bunk bed and that he be handcuffed only in front of his body. The day after Thomas was transferred to a jail in Dane County in July 2012, deputy sheriff Michael Reese assigned him to a top bunk. Believing that Reese knew about but ignored his bottom-bunk restriction, Thomas refused the bunk assignment. He then asked to be moved to the segregation unit, which he knew did not have bunk beds. Reese replied by ordering Thomas to place his hands behind his back to be handcuffed. Thomas protested this order, too, thinking that Reese was also ignoring his front-only cuffing restriction.

The conflict then escalated as two other deputy sheriffs, Robin Hampton and Rob Van Norman, came over to assist Reese. Eventually, Thomas alleges, Hampton slammed his face into a wall, and then all three officers shoved him onto the floor. Thomas alleges that Reese kneed him in the head twice while Hampton and Van Norman forced his hands together behind his back. Reese then kneed Thomas in the head two or three more times and repeatedly punched him in the face, Thomas alleges. Bleeding profusely, Thomas was taken by ambulance to an emergency room to treat his injuries.

Disciplinary proceedings against Thomas followed. Pending his hearing, Thomas was placed in punitive segregation at the jail, where, he alleges, he did not have access to the 50-page inmate handbook he had received just the day before when he was transferred to the jail. The jail charged Thomas with violating several major rules, including those prohibiting physically contacting staff, acting in a disorderly manner, and expelling bodily fluids at another person. Thomas waived a disciplinary hearing and received ten days of segregation as punishment, although he was

Page 847

transferred back to state custody four days after ...


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