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Lewis v. Holloway

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

August 11, 2017




         This is a civil rights case filed by the Plaintiff Destin Allen Lewis under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds pro se and has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"). He is incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Correction, Ouachita River Unit. At all times relevant to this complaint, Plaintiff was incarcerated in the Benton County Detention Center ("BCDC").

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") modified the IFP statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, to require the Court to screen complaints for dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion of it, if it contains claims that: (a) are frivolous or malicious; (b) fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (c) seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the allegations of the Complaint (Doc. 1), Plaintiff believes his constitutional rights were violated in the following ways: (1) when there were inmates in the pod that had not been tested for tuberculosis, had communicable diseases, had a staph infection, or suffered from mental illness; (2) when it took Nurse Carlos over forty-eight hours to segregate the inmate with staph infection; (3) unsanitary conditions when twenty-five to thirty inmates are required to use the same toilet and sink (referred to as the public restroom) when inmates were locked out of their cells; (4) when inmates fear retribution because they are forced to break detention center rules by crossing a red line to access the public restroom causing Plaintiff to attempt to hold his urine and excrement for hours at a time; (5) when Plaintiff suffered dehydration as a result of refusing to drink from the wash basin in the public restroom which he contends was extremely unsanitary with blood, spit, etc. on it; (6) when Plaintiff was denied access to a law library, causing him not to be able to file an appeal or post-conviction motions including one for a reduced sentence; (7) when inmates are locked out of their cells for ten or more hours each day, forced to walk on concrete, or sit on metal stools; (8) when inmates have to do without toilet paper for up to five hours at a time, occurring most often when Deputy Kinsinger is on duty; (9) after May 10, 2017, when inmates were not allowed to shave or cut their hair; (10) prior to May 10, 2017, when there was a failure to properly sanitize the electric clippers between uses, and Deputy Kinsinger refused to provide the plastic guard with the clippers; (11) when inmates were charged $20 to see the nurse whether or not she provides assistance or treatment; (12) when proper disinfectant spray or cleaning supplies was not received on numerous days; (13) when Plaintiff was awakened from a deep sleep by Deputy Trimmel demanding Plaintiff's sheets and blankets for the laundry when the lights were still off in the pod;(14) when inmates did not receive fruit for breakfast as indicated on the posted menu and received fortified fruit drink at other meals instead, when inmates did not receive the proper number of calories-causing inmates to "starve" and Plaintiff to suffer from afflictions due to a lack of vitamins and nutrients-or when inmates were served cold meals; (15) when inmates were charged $1.50 a week, plus tax, for indigent packs; and (16) when inmates were subjected to price gouging by Keefe Commissary charging 200% to 400% more than retail prices.

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. He also asks that every inmate in E-pod be given blood tests. Finally, he asks that he be given a complete physical and that his blood work be screened.


         Under the PLRA, the Court is obligated to screen a case prior to service of process being issued. A claim is frivolous when it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). However, the Court bears in mind that when "evaluating whether a pro se plaintiff has asserted sufficient facts to state a claim, we hold 'a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, ... to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)).

         Several of Plaintiff's claims are subject to dismissal. Plaintiff's claims about the alleged unsanitary conditions in connection with the use of the "public restroom" are subject to dismissal. As a preliminary matter, Plaintiff has not stated how any of the Defendants were personally responsible for these conditions. "Liability under section 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the deprivation of rights. To establish personal liability, [Plaintiff] must allege specific facts of personal involvement in, or direct responsibility for, a deprivation of his constitutional rights." Clemmons v. Armontrout, 477 F.3d 962, 967 (8th Cir. 2007) (quoting Mayorga v. Missouri, 442 F.3d 1128, 1132 (8th Cir. 2006)); Mark v. Nix, 983 F.2d 138, 139-40 (8th Cir. 1993) (section 1983 liability requires some personal involvement or responsibility).

         The Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons, but neither does it permit inhumane ones. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). The Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. Const, amend. VIII; see also Wilson v. Setter, 501 U.S. 294 (1991); Hall v. Dalton, 34 F.3d 648, 650 (8th Cir. 1994) ("[l]n this circuit, the standards applied to Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment claims have been the same"). "[P]unishment is cruel and unusual if it deprives inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Whitnack v. Douglas County, 16 F.3d 954, 957 (8th Cir. 1994)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Jail or prison officials must provide reasonably adequate ventilation, sanitation, bedding, hygienic materials, food, and utilities. Prison condition claims include threats to an inmate's health and safety. Irving v. Dormire, 519 F.3d 441, 446 (8th Cir. 2008)(citation omitted). To state an Eighth Amendment claim, the plaintiff must allege that prison officials acted with "deliberate indifference" towards conditions at the prison that created a substantial risk of serious harm. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834.

         Plaintiff does not allege that he was unable to use the toilet when he needed to. He does not allege his hygiene suffered as a result or that he contracted any disease. While he does allege there were times he held his urine or excrement until he was able to get back in his cell, this was by choice, based on his belief the "public restroom" was unsanitary. Plaintiff does allege one inmate had staph infection and remained in the pod for over forty-eight hours before he was segregated, but he does not allege the infection was connected in any way to the use of the public restroom during lock out periods. Certainly, there is nothing in the Complaint suggesting that the Plaintiff was deprived of a single identifiable human need. No claim is stated.

         Similarly, no claim of constitutional dimension is stated by Plaintiffs allegation that inmates must cross a red line to reach the designated public restroom, and that he fears retribution if he crosses that line. Importantly, Plaintiff does not allege that he or any other inmate has been disciplined for crossing the red line to use the designated restroom.

         Next, no claim of constitutional dimension is stated concerning Plaintiffs alleged dehydration that resulted from him choosing not to drink from the wash basin in the public restroom. There is no need for Plaintiff to touch the sink with his mouth in order to obtain a drink. To the extent he becomes dehydrated during ...

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