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Russell v. Helder

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

June 28, 2016


          Jimmy Dwayne Russell, Plaintiff, Pro Se.

          Sheriff Tim Helder, Defendant, represented by JaNan Arnold Davis, Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, P.A..

          Officer Marsh, Defendant, represented by JaNan Arnold Davis, Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, P.A..


          MARK E. FORD, Magistrate Judge.

         This is a civil rights case filed by the Plaintiff, Jimmy Dwayne Russell, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis.

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated in the Varner Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC). The events at issue in this case occurred while he was incarcerated in the Washington County Detention Center (WCDC). Specifically, he contends his constitutional rights were violated in the following ways: (1) not being allowed to shave or get a hair cut except when going to court; (2) no, or limited, access to the outdoors for exercise purposes and no exercise equipment; (3) no access to television (TV); (4) being singled out by Officer Marsh for harassment and retaliation since he filed another civil rights case Russell v. Sheriff Helder and Dr. Neil Mullins., Civil No. 14-5168 (filed 6/9/2014); and, (5) no access to legal materials including the United States Constitution or Bill of Rights.

         Defendants filed a Summary Judgment Motion. (Doc. 22) A hearing was held on January 19, 2016, to allow the Plaintiff to testify in response to the Motion. The Motion is ready for decision.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff was booked into the WCDC on March 25, 2014. He was transferred to the ADC on October 6, 2015.

         On January 17, 2015, and June 15, 2015, Plaintiff requested a hair cut or a shave for court. Defts' Ex. A-1 at 190; Defts' Ex. A-1 at 240.[1] His requests were denied and he was told they only did court shaves for trials and/or pleas in the Circuit Court. Plaintiff testified he was otherwise able to maintain his personal hygiene with items other than a razor. He did not suffer any injury as a result of not getting hair cuts or shaves, but he did believe it affected him mentally as it contributed to his feeling of constant despair. He testified that the inmates looked more like beasts than humans. To him, looking clean cut and feeling good about yourself goes hand in hand.

         Plaintiff testified he submitted requests several times complaining about the quality or type of exercise available to the inmates. He indicated inmates were able to walk and do push-ups or sit-ups. He testified, however, the uniforms were made out of a thick canvas type fabric that deters exercise because you overheat yourself. He also indicated that inmates were reprimanded for using anything, such as tables or the stairs, to work out.

         According to Plaintiff, inmates were allowed outdoors infrequently even though there were days when it was nice enough to go out. The outside recreation area was about twenty feet by twelve feet in size. He indicated you could not see the trees or the grass from the recreation yard. Plaintiff testified that recreation was often allowed in the early morning when it is the coldest and few people decided to go. Plaintiff believed he suffered a decline in his mental health as a result of not having access to the outdoors. Additionally, he believes the lack of the physical outlet that results from exercise served to build aggression in the jail.

         Inmates, other than trustees, did not have access to television. Radio was provided but Plaintiff testified he could only hear it for thirty minutes in the morning. Inmates did not have access to board games. He believed the lack of access to television and games took a form of recreation away from inmates and prevented them from getting their minds off their time in jail. After he filed this lawsuit, Plaintiff testified televisions were put in the units and inmates were provided board games. In Plaintiff's opinion, this was an admission of guilt. It was his belief that giving the inmates some form of recreation would provide a way to release aggression thereby reducing the number of fights and suicides.

         With respect to access to legal materials, Plaintiff testified there was none. Instead, inmates were advised to talk to their attorneys. Plaintiff indicated he wanted access to legal materials including the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, for both civil and criminal cases. Plaintiff did have an attorney to represent him in his criminal case. Plaintiff indicated, however, he did not know if he was being treated fairly due to his lack of access to legal materials.

         Plaintiff contends Officer Marsh retaliated against him by taking his books and his medical mattress. According to the rules, inmates were only allowed to have three books. There were times Plaintiff had as many as twenty-three books. On the average, Plaintiff testified inmates had twenty books. Plaintiff conceded that books could be used to hide contraband.

         Plaintiff testified he was in a motorcycle accident prior to his incarceration and his pelvis and hip were "held together by screws." For this reason, he was authorized to have a "medical mattress" or second mattress.

         Plaintiff testified Marsh would take away his books and his medical mattress. Plaintiff indicated this happened frequently. Although he had more books than the rules authorized, Plaintiff testified he was the only inmate whose books were taken away. Once, when Plaintiff complained about being singled out, Marsh took books from all the inmates.

         On one occasion when his mattress was taken, his leg was swollen the followed morning. He was seen by medical staff and a Doppler ultrasound was done of his leg. A second blanket or towel was ordered so he could elevate his leg. Plaintiff had no idea if medical mattresses were being taken from other inmates at the same times his were taken.

         When Marsh would take his medical mattress, Plaintiff testified the next shift would return it. He did not believe he had ever gone more than eight hours without it.

         When his requests were denied, he did not file separate grievances, although he testified that he did understand there was a grievance process.

         With respect to Sheriff Helder, Plaintiff testified that the Sheriff was not personally involved in any of the alleged constitutional deprivations. Plaintiff conceded he had no individual capacity claim against the Sheriff. Plaintiff believes, however, that he has an official capacity claim against the Sheriff because the alleged constitutional violations came about as a result of policies set in place by Sheriff Helder.

         II. Applicable Standard

         The Court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[A] genuine issue of material fact exists if: (1) there is a dispute of fact; (2) the disputed fact is material to the outcome of the case; and (3) the dispute is genuine, that is, a reasonable jury could return a verdict for either party." RSBI Aerospace, Inc. v. Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 49 F.3d 399, 401 (8th Cir. 1995).

         The moving party has the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law, but the non-moving party may not rest upon mere denials or allegations in the pleadings and must set forth specific facts to raise a genuine issue for trial. SeeAnderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The Court must view all evidence and inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. SeeMcCleary v. ReliaStar Life Ins. Co.,682 F.3d 1116, 1119 (8th Cir. 2012). However, "[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury ...

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