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Stricklin v. Griffin

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

October 5, 2018

GRIFFIN, Lieutenant; AVERY, Lieutenant; NAILER, Sergeant; JONES, Sergeant; WADE, Lieutenant; BASS, Lieutenant; STARK, Captain; AGNEW, Sergeant; SMITH, Sergeant; CRAWFORD, Sergeant; and JAMES, Sergeant, Cummins Unit, ADC DEFENDANTS


         The following Recommended Disposition ("Recommendation") has been sent to Chief United States District Judge Brian S. Miller. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of the date of this Recommendation. If you do not file objections, Judge Miller can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing all of the evidence in the record. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction

         Joshua Stricklin (“Stricklin”) is a prisoner at the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”). He has filed a pro se § 1983 Complaint and two Amended Complaints alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights. Docs. 3, 6 & 8. Before Stricklin may proceed with this case, the Court must screen his allegations.[1]

         II. Discussion

         Stricklin alleges that Defendants: (1) violated his Eighth Amendment rights by depriving him of a mattress from March 23 to April 2, 2018; (2) violated his First Amendment rights by refusing to timely provide him with grievance forms; and (3) violated ADC policy by denying him a mattress and access to the administrative grievance process.

         A. Violation of ADC Policy

          It is well settled that, to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege facts showing that defendants deprived him of a right secured by the federal Constitution or laws of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Thus, a defendant's alleged violation of internal prison rules or procedures, standing alone, is not actionable. Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d 844, 847 (8th Cir. 2003); Gardner v. Howard, 109 F.3d 427, 430 (8th Cir. 1997) (“there is no § 1983 liability for violating prison policy”).

         Accordingly, Stricklin's claim that ADC policies were violated fails to state a viable claim for relief under § 1983.

         B. Denial of a Mattress

          Stricklin alleges that sleeping on a “hard wooden bunk” for ten nights, without a mattress, caused him to suffer: sleep deprivation and insomnia; pain in his shoulders, back, hips, neck, and joints; and “mental chaos and suicidal ideation.” Doc. 3, at 5-7; Doc. 6, at 4-7, 13-14; Doc. 8, at 6-8. According to Stricklin, he repeatedly complained about the denial of a mattress to each named Defendant, to no avail.[2]

         The “Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons” or that prisons be “free of discomfort.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981). Thus, to plead a viable inhumane conditions of confinement claim under the Eighth Amendment, Stricklin must allege facts suggesting that: (1) objectively, he suffered a deprivation that was “sufficiently serious” enough to deny him “the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities, ” or to pose “a substantial risk of serious harm” to his health or safety; and (2) subjectively, the defendants were deliberately indifferent to the risk of harm posed by the deprivation. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); see also Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 36 (1993) (holding that the Eighth Amendment “requires a court to assess whether society considers the risk that the prisoner complains of to be so grave that it violates contemporary standards of decency to expose anyone unwillingly to such a risk”). The length of time that a prisoner is subjected to the allegedly inhumane conditions is a “critical factor” in the Eighth Amendment analysis. Smith v. Copeland, 87 F.3d 265, 269 (8th Cir. 1996) (stating that “[c]onditions such as a filthy cell that may be tolerable for a few days are intolerably cruel for weeks or months”).

         The Eighth Circuit has recognized that, because “sleep is critical to human existence, ” conditions that prevent sleep may violate the Eighth Amendment. Walton v. Dawson, 752 F.3d 1109, 1120 (8th Cir. 2014) (holding that “the Constitution guarantees a minimum right to sleep without legitimate fear of a nighttime assault by another detainee.”). Importantly, Stricklin was only required to sleep without a mattress for ten nights, a relatively short period of time in cases regarding sleeping conditions. See Alfred v. Bryant, 378 Fed.Appx. 977, 980 (11th Cir. 2010) (unpub.) (“[S]leeping on a steel bed without a mattress for eighteen days, though uncomfortable, is not so extreme as to violate contemporary standards of decency.”); Goldman v. Forbus, 17 Fed.Appx. 487, 488 (8th Cir. 2001) (unpub.) (no constitutional violation where detainee slept six nights on the floor next to a toilet); Ferguson v. Cape Girardeau County, 88 F.3d 647, 650 (8th Cir. 1996) (no constitutional violation where prisoner was forced to sleep on the floor on a mat, under constant bright lights, for fourteen days, a period of “relative short duration”).; A.L. by L.B. v. Kierst, 56 F.3d 849, 855 (8th Cir. 1995) (unpub.) (no constitutional violation where juvenile detainee was forced to sleep on a floor mattress for fifteen days, a “relatively short period of time”); Hamilton v. Mauldin, No. 14-CV-4033, 2015 WL 898080, at *2 (W.D. Ark. Mar. 3, 2015) (“While Plaintiff may have been uncomfortable without a mattress [for seven or eight nights], this was not a deprivation of any minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.”); Desroche v. Strain, 507 F.Supp.2d 571, 579-80 (E.D. La. 2007) (sleeping for ten days on the floor of an unsanitary holding tank, without a mattress, failed to state a constitutional claim); see also White v. Nix, 7 F.3d 120, 121 (8th Cir. 1993) (noting the “relative brevity” of prisoner's eleven-day confinement in an allegedly unsanitary cell and finding no constitutional violation).[3]

         Additionally, Stricklin does not allege that he was forced to sleep without any bedding or clothing, or that he was exposed to extreme temperatures or unsanitary conditions, all of which are relevant factors in determining whether a prisoner's sleeping arrangements are unconstitutional. See, e.g., Owens, 328 F.3d at 1027 (reversing summary judgment for jail officials where detainee slept on a floor mattress next to a toilet for five weeks); O'Leary v. Iowa State Men's Reformatory, 79 F.3d 82, 83-84 (8th Cir. 1996) (four days without underwear, blankets and mattress did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation); Seltzer-Bey v. Delo, 66 F.3d 961, 963-64 (8th Cir. 1995) (no constitutional violation where inmate was in strip cell for two days without clothing, bedding, or running water, with a concrete slab for a bed, and cold air blowing on him); Williams v. Delo, 49 F.3d 442, 444 (8th Cir. 1995) (four days without clothes, mattress, blanket, running water, and hygiene supplies, was not a constitutional violation).

         Because ten days without a mattress did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation, the Court recommends that Stricklin's Eighth Amendment claim be dismissed, without prejudice, for ...

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