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Collins v. Neal

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

October 15, 2018

BRIAN K. COLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
RON NEAL, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT L. MILLER, JR. JUDGE

         Brian K. Collins, a prisoner without a lawyer, proceeds on an Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim against Warden Neal and Counselor Roose for allowing an attack by fellow inmates to occur on February 13, 2016. According to the complaint, on January 26, 2016, Mr. Collins transferred to the Indiana State Prison due to gang-related threats he received at the New Castle Correctional Facility. There, a gang targeted him for violence due to the nature of his conviction and his reputation as a “snitch”. On January 26, 27, and 28, Mr. Collins raised his concerns with Counselor Roose. On January 29, Mr. Collins was assigned to a cell house in general population. On February 13, four inmates, who were also gang members, surrounded Mr. Collins in his cell and assaulted him, which resulted in a loss of consciousness and broken teeth. Mr. Collins was reassigned to the protective custody unit three days later.

         The defendants filed this motion for summary judgment, arguing that Mr. Collins failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by completing the grievance process. Mr. Collins responds that the grievance process wasn't available for his claim because it pertained to classification issues. The defendants reply that the claim at issue is a failure to protect claim, so Mr. Collins was required to comply with the grievance process.

         In a declaration, Joshua Wallen, grievance supervisor at the Indiana State Prison, attested that a process is available to inmates to grieve the actions of correctional staff. The grievance policy for the Indiana Department of Correction sets forth a three-step grievance process. First, an inmate must try to resolve a complaint informally, typically by speaking to the staff member most directly associated with the complaint. If the inmate is unable to resolve informally the complaint, he may file a formal grievance with the grievance specialist. Finally, if an inmate is dissatisfied with the grievance specialist's determination, he may file an appeal with the grievance manager. According to the grievance records, Mr. Wallen says, Mr. Collins didn't file a grievance against Warden Neal or Mr. Roose or about the attack.

         With respect to the scope of the grievance process, the grievance policy states as follows:

A. Matters Appropriate to the Offender Grievance Procedure:
Offenders may initiate the grievance process when an incident or issue affects that personally and impacts the conditions of their confinement. Examples of issues about which an offender may initiate the grievance process include, but are not limited to:
* * *
2. The way that staff members are interpreting and applying the policies, procedures, or rules of the Department or of the facility; 3. Actions of individual staff, contractors or volunteers; all PREA issues;
* * *
5. Any other concerns relating to conditions of care or supervision within the Department or its contractors, except as noted in the administrative procedures.
* * *
B. Matters Inappropriate to the Offender Grievance ...

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