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Chandler v. Lewis

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

November 3, 2014

MELVIN CHANDLER, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERIFF TYRONE LEWIS, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

LINDA R. ANDERSON, Magistrate Judge.

This case came before the Court for trial on July 1, 2014. Testimony on the issue of exhaustion was presented, and the Court reconsidered its prior ruling denying Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [36]. Testimony was also given on the merits of the case by Plaintiff and his witnesses, Stacy Berry, Lawrence Adams, and Jerome Banks. Sheriff Tyrone Lewis and Captain Michael Ivy testified on behalf of Defendants. Plaintiff's medical records and inmate file were admitted into evidence [59-1, 2, 3].

Exhaustion

Defendants' motion for summary judgment based upon Chandler's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies was denied without prejudice in that Memorandum Opinion and Order [36] filed on September 26, 2013. Defendants reurged the motion at the trial and gave testimony supporting their contention that Chandler failed to exhaust. The Court has considered the evidence regarding exhaustion, including Chandler's testimony at the trial and at the prior hearings conducted by this Court. The Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, and his Complaint must be dismissed on that basis.

Chandler testified that he attempted to exhaust on many occasions by writing letters to various people, including Attorney General Jim Hood, Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn, and Defendant Captain Michael Ivey. He testified that it did not help to ask for a grievance form and to fill them out and turn them in to the deputies because "you got no response." Yet, his inmate file contains no evidence that he filed any grievances regarding the conditions, and he testified that he had no proof of any grievances he filed. However, two of Plaintiff's witnesses testified that they were aware of the grievance program and that they knew how to fill out grievances. Both Berry and Adams testified that they were shown the grievance procedures and Berry had utilized it.

Defendant Captain Ivey testified that he worked from about 1998-2013 at the Hinds County Detention Facility [HCDF] and that he was captain over the facility when Chandler was housed there. He knew Chandler personally, as they had lived in the same town approximately one mile from each other. He does not recall that Chandler ever made him aware of any medical problems. Captain Ivey testified that the Handbook [Exhibit 6] was made available to the inmates and that it contained the grievance procedures beginning at page 16. Chandler would have had access to the handbook in the housing unit. When Captain Ivey came to the jail, he realized that not every inmate had a copy of the handbook. Because of this, he made hundreds of handbooks to be distributed to be certain that all inmates had them. Grievances could be written on any type of paper. Locked boxes were available in the housing units for a period of time for inmates to place grievances in. The inmates destroyed these boxes, so for a short time there were none. Thereafter, the facility built boxes on rollers, and the boxes were rolled into the housing units for inmates to file grievances. Only the facility commander had a key, and that was Captain Ivey. If the box was not there, Captain Ivey testified that he would personally take them. He was in the housing units for about 50% of his time, so inmates could find him easily. Captain Ivey testified that he would personally handle the grievances. If the inmate was dissatisfied, he could write to Chris Picou, the undersheriff, and then the Sheriff. The handbook explained the appeals process.

At the omnibus hearing, when questioned about whether he had presented his claims through the Detention Center's grievance program, Chandler testified as follows:

CHANDLER: You know, I tried to contact through the other - the administrative remedy program. Hinds County don't have one. Raymond Detention Center don't have one as far as I know because I have talked to - you know, to my military training, I went to follow your chain of command. I assume that's what you're talking about. You start from the lowest and go to the top.
COURT: Did you ask for grievance forms?
CHANDLER: They don't go no further than the pod, ma'am. He got a box. You write your grievance forms, turn them in to the deputies, they don't go no further. You don't get no response from no grievance form.
COURT: They give you the forms?
CHANDLER: You fill them out.
COURT: If you ask for them?
CHANDLER: Fill them out, turn them in, you don't get no ...

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