United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
STEPHEN M. DEANE, Plaintiff,
RON NEAL, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
DEGUILIO, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
M. Deane, a pro se prisoner, filed a complaint
alleging that he was housed in unconstitutional conditions of
confinement for nine days in the Special Management Cell
(SMC) at the Indiana State Prison. “A document filed pro
se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint,
however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers . .
..” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007). Nevertheless, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A,
this court must review the complaint and dismiss it if the
action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim, or
seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from
such relief. “In order to state a claim under [42
U.S.C.] § 1983 a plaintiff must allege: (1) that
defendants deprived him of a federal constitutional right;
and (2) that the defendants acted under color of state
law.” Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670 (7th
August 8, 2016, Deane was placed in SMC, where he remained
for nine days. He claims that the conditions of the SMC
violated his Eighth Amendment rights. The Eighth Amendment
prohibits conditions of confinement that deny inmates
“the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities.” Townsend v. Fuchs, 522 F.3d 765,
773 (7th Cir. 2008). However, “the Constitution does
not mandate comfortable prisons, ” and conditions that
may seem “restrictive” or “even
harsh” are “part of the penalty that criminal
offenders pay for their offenses against society.”
Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347-49 (1981).
There are three major deficiencies with Dean's complaint.
the Eighth Amendment claim presented by Deane lacks
sufficient detail to determine whether it plausibly states a
claim. Though he complains about many conditions, Deane does
not detail any of them with enough specificity to determine
if he was housed in unconstitutional conditions of
confinement. For example, while he claims he was not allowed
to go to recreation, that alone is not sufficient to state a
claim. Though a total lack of exercise would state a claim
where “movement is denied and muscles are allowed to
atrophy, ” French v. Owens, 777 F.2d 1250,
1255 (7th Cir. 1985), the denial of “desirable,
entertaining diversions . . . [do] not raise a constitutional
issue, ” Harris v. Fleming, 839 F.2d 1232,
1236 (7th Cir. 1988). Thus, merely alleging that he is denied
access to recreation time does not state a claim. And, while
he complains about not receiving various items during this
time, he has not alleged that this limitation was other than
inherent to his being in segregation and necessary “to
maintain good order, security and discipline, consistent with
consideration of costs and limited resources.”
Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 723 (2005).
Further, though Deane complains about only being allowed to
shower once every three days, that did not violate the
constitution. Hardaway v. Meyerhoff, 734 F.3d 740
(7th Cir. 2013). And, while Deane complains that the lights
in his cell were left on for 24 hours a day, he does not
explain how bright the lights were, nor what harm was caused
by them. Neither does he say whether he was permitted to
cover his eyes to block out the light and help him sleep.
Based on the current complaint, the court cannot plausibly
infer that leaving the lights on for 24 hour each day states
a claim. See Mathews v. Raemisch, 513 Fed.Appx. 605
(7th Cir. 2013). He also alleges there was “dirt,
blood, grime and fecal matter” on the outer walls,
floor and under the bed, but it is unclear how that caused
inhumane conditions in the area where he lived or how it
affected him. While the SMC was clearly uncomfortable and
unpleasant, it is not clear that being housed there for 9
days denied him of the “minimal civilized measure of
life's necessities.” Rice v. Corr. Med.
Servs., 675 F.3d 650, 664-665 (7th Cir. 2012) citing
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Though he
has provided some factual descriptions, they are insufficient
to plausibly state an Eighth Amendment claim.
even if Deane had alleged a plausible Eighth Amendment
violation, he has nevertheless failed to name the responsible
defendant. The only defendant Deane has named is Ron Neal,
the Warden of ISP. Neal is not alleged to have been aware of,
or personally involved in, subjecting Deane to the complained
of conditions of confinement. Nor does Deane allege that he
was housed in those conditions based on any ISP policy.
Instead, Deane has named him as a defendant because Neal is
responsible for the overall operation of the prison. The
warden cannot be liable simply because he oversees the
operations of the prison or supervises correctional officers
there. Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 596 (7th
Cir. 2009). It is clear Deane believes that unnamed ISP staff
members housed him in these conditions contrary to ISP
policy. ECF 1 at 3. Therefore, Deane must identify which ISP
staff member(s) housed him under the complained of conditions
because “[o]nly persons who cause or participate in the
violations are responsible.” George v. Smith,
507 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 2007).
Deane has not explained how any individual was deliberately
indifferent to his conditions of confinement. Deliberate
indifference is comparable to criminal recklessness, and is
shown by “something approaching a total unconcern for
[the plaintiff's] welfare in the face of serious risks,
or a conscious, culpable refusal to prevent harm.”
Duane v. Lane, 959 F.2d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 1992).
The defendant “must be both aware of facts from which
the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of
serious harm exists, and he must draw the inference.”
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). A
defendant must have “actual knowledge of impending harm
easily preventable, so that a conscious, culpable refusal to
prevent the harm can be inferred from the defendant's
failure to prevent it.” Duckworth v. Franzen,
780 F.2d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 1985). This total disregard for a
prisoner's safety is the “functional equivalent of
wanting harm to come to the prisoner.” McGill v.
Duckworth, 944 F.2d 344, 347 (7th Cir. 1991). Negligence
does not satisfy the “deliberate indifference”
standard, Sellers v. Henman, 41 F.3d 1100, 1102 (7th
Cir. 1994), and it is not enough to show that a prison
official merely failed to act reasonably. Gibbs v.
Franklin, 49 F.3d 1206, 1208 (7th Cir. 1995). Deane has
not alleged that anyone knew of the complained of conditions
of the SMC and ignored them.
a named responsible defendant, a clear description of the
nature of his housing, and allegations establishing that the
named defendant was deliberately indifferent, it is
impossible to discern whether Deane has a plausible claim.
When a complaint is vague, confusing, or lacking in necessary
detail, the court is “within its rights” to
dismiss the complaint with leave to replead. Loubser v.
Thacker, 440 F.3d 439, 443 (7th Cir. 2006). Accordingly,
the court will strike the complaint and afford Deane an
opportunity to file an amended complaint. If he files an
amended complaint, he needs to describe his personal
experiences in the SMC cell, not merely general descriptions.
He must also explain how each named individual defendant was
deliberately indifferent by describing what that defendant
knew about the conditions on the SMC cell and what each could
have easily done to change those conditions. He can obtain a
copy of this court's approved form - Prisoner Complaint
(INND Rev. 8/16) - from the prison law library.
these reasons, the court:
(1) STRIKES the complaint (ECF 1);
(2) GRANTS Stephen M. Deane to and including
December 4, 2017, to file an amended complaint on the
appropriate form; and
(3) CAUTIONS him that if he does not respond
by the deadline, this case will be dismissed without further