United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JAMES L. ASHER, Plaintiff,
GEO GROUP, INC., et al. Defendants.
ENTRY DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND DIRECTING FURTHER
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
Complaint, the plaintiff states he did not exhaust his
administrative remedies because the grievance process would
be null and void. The Court explained in a previous Order
that this statement suggests that he failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies before filing this action as required
by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.
The plaintiff was ordered to show cause why this action
should not be dismissed for this reason.
plaintiff responded by filing two motions. These motions,
dkt. , dkt. , are granted to the
extent they make clear that the plaintiff's allegations
should not be construed as an acknowledgment that this action
is barred, but instead are a contention that the
administrative remedy process was unavailable to him. This
does not, however, mean that the Court has determined that
the administrative remedy process was unavailable. With this
understanding, the Court will turn to screening the merits of
the plaintiff's claims.
plaintiff is a prisoner currently incarcerated at New Castle
Correctional Facility (“New Castle”). Because the
plaintiff is a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(c), this Court has an obligation under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(b) to screen his complaint before service on the
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the
complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a
claim for relief, or seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief. In determining
whether the complaint states a claim, the Court applies the
same standard as when addressing a motion to dismiss under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Lagerstrom
v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To
[the] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is
plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Pro se
complaints such as that filed by the plaintiff are construed
liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers. Perez v. Fenoglio, 792
F.3d 768, 776 (7th Cir. 2015).
plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against (1) GEO Group, Inc.; (2) Superintendent Keith
Butts; (3) Assistant Superintendent Scott Fitch; (4) Major
Roy Davis; (5) Lieutenant Steven Roberts; and (6) Officer
Riley. The plaintiff alleges that, on December 26, 2017, he
was released from his housing unit to obtain medicine from
the medical dispensary. While walking to the medical
dispensary, the plaintiff was assaulted by two inmates who
were improperly released from a different housing unit by
plaintiff alleges that Officer Riley is responsible for the
assault because he failed to properly check the medical cards
of the two inmates who were improperly released to the
medical dispensary. The Eighth Amendment obligates prison
officials to “take reasonable measures to guarantee the
safety of . . . inmates.” Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). To establish an Eighth Amendment
violation, the plaintiff must show that a defendant was
deliberately indifferent to “an excessive risk to
inmate health or safety[.]” Gevas v.
McLaughlin, 798 F.3d 475, 480 (7th Cir. 2015) (citation
and quotation marks omitted). “This includes two
components: (1) the harm to which the prisoner was exposed
must be an objectively serious one; and (2) judged
subjectively, the prison official must have actual, and not
merely constructive, knowledge of the risk.” Sinn
v. Lemmon, __ F.3d __, 2018 WL 6583369, *5 (7th Cir.
2018) (citation and quotation marks omitted). “For this
second element, the official must both be aware of facts from
which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of
serious harm exists, and he must also draw the
inference.” Id. (citation and quotation marks
plaintiff's sole allegation against Officer Riley-that he
failed to properly check medical cards before releasing
inmates to the medical dispensary-does not show that Officer
Riley had “actual . . . knowledge of this risk”
that the two inmates in question would assault the plaintiff.
Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). Instead,
the plaintiff's allegation sounds in negligence, which is
to say that Officer Riley mistakenly let inmates out of a
cell block that should not have been released. This does not
show that Officer Riley was deliberately indifferent to a
known risk that the plaintiff would be assaulted. The
plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim against Officer Riley
must therefore be dismissed for failure to
state a claim.
plaintiff alleges that the first five defendants are
responsible for the assault because they knowingly run an
overcrowded and understaffed prison, they do not provide
proper security during major line movements, and they failed
to properly train Officer Riley regarding releasing inmates
during major line movements. As a general matter, there is no
liability for supervisory staff under § 1983. See
Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 593-94 (7th Cir. 2009)
(“Section 1983 does not establish a system of vicarious
responsibility. Liability depends on each defendant's
knowledge and actions, not on the knowledge or actions of
persons they supervise.”).
individuals “who are responsible for setting prison
policy can be held liable for a constitutional violation if
they are aware of a systematic lapse in enforcement of a
policy critical to ensuring inmate safety yet fail to enforce
that policy.” Sinn, __ F.3d __, 2018 WL
6583369, at *8 (citation and quotation marks omitted).
“But an inmate cannot show a ‘widespread practice
of an unconstitutional nature,' such as a custom of
ignoring prison policy, by pointing to ‘isolated
incidents of inmate-on-inmate brutality.'”
Id. (quoting Palmer v. Marion Cnty., 327
F.3d 588, 597 (7th Cir. 2003)). Here, the plaintiff only
alleges one incident-the one where he was assaulted. To the
extent the plaintiff also alleges that the overcrowding and
understaffed nature of the prison along with the supervisory
defendants' failure to train Officer Riley is sufficient
to state an Eighth Amendment claim, the Seventh Circuit has
held that such allegations from the ...