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Thomas v. Hendrix

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

July 17, 2019

LEONARD THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
JACK HENDRIX, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JON E. DEGUILIO JUDGE

         Leonard Thomas, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a motion for a preliminary injunction for a transfer to a facility with a specialized mental health unit. He currently proceeds on a First Amendment claim of retaliation and an Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference for his transfer from the New Castle Correctional Facility to the Westville Control Unit in March 2017 and on an Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference for failing to prevent him from attempting suicide in March 2018.

         “The purpose of preliminary injunctive relief is to minimize the hardship to the parties pending the ultimate resolution of the lawsuit.” Platinum Home Mortg. Corp. v. Platinum Fin. Group, Inc., 149 F.3d 722, 726 (7th Cir.1998). “In order to obtain a preliminary injunction, the moving party must show that: (1) they are reasonably likely to succeed on the merits; (2) no adequate remedy at law exists; (3) they will suffer irreparable harm which, absent injunctive relief, outweighs the irreparable harm the respondent will suffer if the injunction is granted; and (4) the injunction will not harm the public interest.” Joelner v. Village of Washington Park, Illinois, 378 F.3d 613, 619 (7th Cir. 2004). Additionally,

“[t]he PLRA circumscribes the scope of the court's authority to enter an injunction in the corrections context. Where prison conditions are found to violate federal rights, remedial injunctive relief must be narrowly drawn, extend no further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right, and use the least intrusive means necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right. This section of the PLRA enforces a point repeatedly made by the Supreme Court in cases challenging prison conditions: Prison officials have broad administrative and discretionary authority over the institutions they manage.”

Westefer v. Neal, 682 F.3d 679 (7th Cir. 2012).

         FACTS

         In support of the instant motion, Thomas submitted his medical records from January 2016 through November 2018, and, according to these medical records, the following occurred. On January 30, 2016, Thomas was placed on suicide watch at the Westville Control Unit after threatening to cut his wrist if he did not receive a twenty-five hundred calorie diet. ECF 11-4 at 5-6. On April 7, Thomas voiced suicidal intent and cut his wrists because his food tray was delivered late. ECF 11-5 at 105-08.

         On April 20, 2016, he transferred to the New Castle Correctional Facility. Id. at 190-93. On intake, he told Dr. Keris that “he had recently claimed suicide in order to be removed from his current housing situation and that he did not really want to die, ” and Dr. Keris noted that he had a history of engaging in acts of self-harm to manipulate his housing assignments. Id. at 202-06. In reviewing his mental health records, Dr. Keris noted that Thomas frequently complained of anxiety and hallucinations but medical staff rarely observed any sign of these symptoms. Id. His diagnoses included antisocial personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenia, and his psychotropic medications included Risperdal. Id. On April 29, he underwent an initial psychiatric evaluation, and Dr. Burdine noted that he had been sent to the Westville Control Unit because he had attempted to murder his cellmate. Id. at 213-23. She further noted that Thomas had shown few objective signs of schizophrenia. Id. She planned to discontinue his psychotropic medication to allow for a baseline observation for diagnostic purposes. Id.

         On June 28, 2016, Dr. Burdine observed no changes as a result of the discontinuing his medication. ECF 11-6 at 56-59. On July 14, mental health staff discussed Thomas' treatment plan and concluded that he should not have been transferred to New Castle Correctional Facility based on his stable mental condition even without medication. Id. at 68-69. However, they noted his behavioral issues, which included episodes of intense anger when he did not get his way. Id. On August 25, a mental health therapist noted that Thomas had been refusing to attend group therapy and refused to discuss a new treatment plan. Id. at 102-03. She opined that Thomas' mental condition did not warrant a paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis because Thomas had been stable without medication for four months with no signs of psychosis. Id.

         On October 6, 2016, mental health staff discussed Thomas's treatment plan and noted his refusal to attend individual and group therapy sessions. Id. at 146-48. They observed that Thomas would alternate between insisting that he was seriously mentally ill and asserting that there was nothing wrong with him based on which position was more advantageous to him at any given time. Id. They found that he had made no progress during the last ninety days. Id. They also noted that he had shown no signs of psychosis after six months without psychotropic medication. Id. Based on these observations, they recommended a transfer to another facility. Id. On October 11, 2016, Dr. Keris noted that Thomas exhibited no signs of psychosis or of responding to internal stimuli after six months without psychotropic medication. Id. at 155-58. She described him as very organized and logical but manipulative and impulsive with a tendency to believe that others are working against him. Id. Based on these observations, she replaced the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia with borderline personality disorder. Id. On December 29, 2016, mental health staff noted no signs of psychosis after nine months without psychotropic medication. ECF 11-7 at 9-11.

         On March 7, 2017, Thomas transferred to the Westville Control Unit, and mental health staff determined that Thomas did not meet the criteria for an inmate with a serious mental illness. Id. at 76-82, 95-96. On March 8, Thomas began complaining on a daily basis through medical requests and in person that he heard voices instructing him to engage in self harm. See e.g., ECF 1-7 at 18-40; ECF 1-8; ECF 1-9. From April 1, 2017, to January 18, 2018, Dr. Eichmann responded by restarting Thomas on psychotropic medication and increasing the dosage on five separate occasions. ECF 11-7 at 126-28, 149-51, 169-71; ECF 11-8 at 5-8, 45-48, 81-84. He also received weekly visits from mental health staff as well as individual therapy sessions on a monthly basis. See e.g., ECF 11-7 at 154, 166, 172-74, 187, 199-201. On December 19, 2017, a mental health therapist noted that Thomas had been placed on a razor restriction after stating that he wanted to cut his wrists with a razor. ECF 11-8 at 70-72.

         On March 12, 2018, Thomas cut his wrists with a razor found in the shower and reported that he did so due to voices instructing him to engage in self harm. Id. at 109-10. He was moved to an observation unit and was placed on constant suicide monitoring. Id. at 111-12. A mental health therapist noted that there were no signs that Thomas had experienced hallucinatory commands other than his report and that he had asked her about a new housing assignment. Id. at 113-16. She assessed a high likelihood that Thomas engaged in this act of self-harm to manipulate his housing assignment. Id. On March 13, Thomas reported that he was no longer suicidal and that he was ready to be released from suicide observation. Id. at 122-24. He was stepped down from constant observation to close observation. Id. On March 14, Thomas had no complaints, and he was removed from suicide observation. Id. at 130-31. Mental health staff continued to monitor Thomas as a suicide risk until April 11. Id. at 141-71.

         On May 8, 2018, Dr. Eichman planned to wean Thomas from psychotropic medication to clarify his diagnosis, and she lowered his dosage of Haldol. Id. at 186-89. On May 17, a mental health therapist observed no mental health symptoms. Id. at 200-01. On May 30, a mental health therapist noted complaints of visual hallucinations but observed that these complaints were inconsistent with Thomas' demeanor and behavior. ECF 11-9 at 11-12. In June and July 2018, Dr. Eichman continued to wean Thomas from psychotropic medication, noting that he remained asymptomatic. Id. at 21-24, 54-56. On August 21, Dr. Eichman discontinued Thomas' psychotropic medication and noted no observed signs of mood disorder or psychosis since she began to wean him. Id. at 112-13. On September 18, Thomas refused to attend a scheduled appointment with Dr. Eichman. Id. at 157-58. On September 21, Thomas reported the inability to sleep, racing thoughts, a lack of focus, and hearing voices. Id. at 169-70. A mental health therapist found these reports inconsistent with his ability to hold a rational conversation, perform legal work, and his well-rested appearance. Id. On September 25, Thomas went to the law library instead of attending a scheduled appointment with Dr. Eichman. Id. at 174-75.

         On September 27, 2018, Thomas cut his left wrist with a razor. Id. at 186-87. He was moved to an observation unit and was placed on constant suicide monitoring, where he continued to report suicidal intent. Id. at 188-90. On October 4, he denied suicidal intent and asked to restart psychotropic medication. ECF 11-10 at 31-34. He was stepped down from constant observation to close observation. Id. On October 8, he was released from suicide watch. Id. at 54-56. On October 15, Thomas reported no mental health issues and denied thoughts of self-harm. Id. at 74-75. A mental health therapist observed him joking and laughing. Id. On October 22, Thomas reported paranoia, anxiety, the inability to sleep, and passing thoughts of self-harm. Id. at 90-91. A mental health therapist observed that he did not present as anxious but joked and laughed during the therapy session. Id. On October 24, Thomas reported that he did not have coping skills. Id. at 103-04. When a mental health therapist raised Thomas' earlier reports of coping by reading and exercising, Thomas said that he did not remember that. Id. The therapist observed Thomas' extensive legal work and ability to keep his room clean ...


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