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Jeffers v. Carter

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 22, 2019

ROBERT E. CARTER, et al. Defendants.



         I. Screening

         Plaintiff Nathaniel Jeffers is a prisoner currently incarcerated at the Pendleton Correctional Facility (Pendleton). He brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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 defendants. Pursuant to § 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 Cesal v. Moats, 851 F.3d 714, 720 (7th Cir. 2017). To survive dismissal,

[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 pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Cesal, 851 F.3d at 720.

         1. Allegations

         The complaint names the following defendants: 1) Commissioner Robert E. Carter; 2) Warden Dushan Zatecky; and 3) Assistant Warden Duane Alsip. The plaintiff sues each defendant in his individual and official capacity. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

         The plaintiff alleges that Pendleton is overcrowded. He alleges that the Warden and Assistant Warden have started double-bunking inmates. He also alleges that due to the overcrowding and being on lockdown, medical treatments have been delayed and denied. He alleges many inmates have suffered from delayed treatment.

         The plaintiff further alleges that Pendleton is understaffed which has led to denials of recreation and visitation. He alleges that violence among the prison inmates has increased. Also on his list of complaints is the number of hours between meals, that the nutritional value of meals is not adequate for grown men, and the kitchen equipment is not properly sanitized. Finally, he complains that the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) has revised the grievance policies to make it more difficult for inmates to complete the process. He alleges that these conditions violate his Eighth Amendment rights.

         2. Discussion

         Pursuant to the Eighth Amendment, prison officials have a duty to provide humane conditions of confinement, meaning, they must take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates and ensure that they receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). To state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to support a claim that the “conditions of his confinement resulted in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities, and that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to the conditions in which he was held.” Gruenberg v. Gempeler, 697 F.3d 573, 579 (7th Cir. 2012) (internal quotations omitted).

         The overarching problem with the plaintiff's complaint is that he does not allege that he has suffered any compensable injury as a result of overcrowding or the other conditions he describes. Section 1983 allows for recovery only by a “party injured” by a “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see also Armstrong v. Daily, 786 F.3d 529, 553 (7th Cir. 2015) (a plaintiff must “establish one of the necessary elements of a constitutional tort: that the officer's act ... caused any injury.”) (internal quotation omitted).

         Double-bunking in prison is not per se unconstitutional. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347-52 (1981); Heard v. Baldwin, 732 Fed.Appx. 472 (7th Cir. 2018) (although plaintiff alleged overcrowding, he did not allege that it “created a substantial risk of harm to him individually and that prison officials knew about and ignored the risk.”) (emphasis added). The plaintiff alleges no violence or other injuries that he suffered as a result of double-bunking and overcrowding. The plaintiff's double-bunking claim is dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         While the plaintiff alleges generally that inmates are being denied adequate and timely medical care, he does not allege that he has been denied any specific treatment. “It is true that delays in care for non-life-threatening but painful conditions may constitute deliberate indifference if the delay exacerbated the injury or unnecessarily prolonged an inmate's pain.” Mitchell v. Kallas, 895 F.3d 492, 500 (7th Cir. 2018) (internal quotation omitted). “Yet prisons have limited resources, and that fact makes some delay inevitable.” Id. “For a delay in treatment to qualify as deliberate indifference, we must weigh the seriousness of the condition and the ease of providing treatment.” Id. (internal quotation omitted). Absent an allegation that the plaintiff has a serious medical condition and has been denied ...

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