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Johnson v. Miller

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

December 3, 2014

JOSEPH L. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MAJOR J. MILLER, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

LINDA R. ANDERSON, Magistrate Judge.

This cause comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary [32] as to unexhausted claims, as well as Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [34] as to exhausted claims. Having considered the entire record in this matter, the Court concludes that the motions are well-taken and are hereby granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit pro se and pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, challenging the conditions of his confinement at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility (WGCF). [1]. Defendants, Warden Lawrence Mack and Major James Miller, were assigned to work at WGCF. The Court held an omnibus or Spears hearing in this matter on April 16, 2014, at which Plaintiff was afforded the opportunity to fully explain his claims.[1] At the hearing, all parties consented to the undersigned deciding this case in its entirety. [27].

Plaintiff alleges that while he was incarcerated at WGCF, he had no working toilet and had to use the bathroom in the showers. According to Plaintiff, the showers were terribly mildewed and this aggravated his asthma. Plaintiff claims that he stayed sick the entire time he was there. Plaintiff further alleges that until January 2013, there was no sound on the TV unless you could purchase earplugs at the canteen. Plaintiff claims that although he had a locker box, he was unable to lock the box to keep his legal papers private. Plaintiff claims that the day room was extremely cold, but Defendants would not allow him to wear his coat in there. Plaintiff also alleges that the inmates were never brought cleaning supplies and that he could not clean his own cell and the showers without supplies.

Plaintiff further contends that he has been diagnosed with a heart condition, asthma, bronchitis and an ulcer, and that chemicals used in the zone irritated his illnesses. He asserts that his bronchitis was caused by Defendants' failure to treat his asthma. According to Plaintiff, Defendants also failed to treat his heart problems. He claims that he had chest pains while housed at WGCF and went to the medical unit for treatment. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants only gave him asthma treatments and baby aspirin. Additionally, though Plaintiff alleges that he put in a sick call every other week, he claims Defendants would only check his blood pressure and his asthma; they would not give him heart medication.

EXHAUSTION

Defendants contend that Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies, except with respect to his claims concerning not having a lock, the cell doors being locked when inmates are out of their cells, and not being allowed to wear his jacket in the day room. Plaintiff argues that he did submit grievances regarding the other matters he has raised, but he has failed to produce any evidence other than one document he represents to be a copy of an amendment to his grievance. [28].

The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e), provides that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." This statute clearly requires an inmate bringing a civil rights action in this Court to first exhaust his available administrative remedies. Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 739 (2001). Exhaustion is no longer left to the discretion of the district court, but is mandatory. Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002). Exhaustion will not be excused when an inmate fails to timely exhaust his administrative remedies; the exhaustion requirement also means "proper exhaustion." Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 83-84 (2006). It is not enough to merely initiate the grievance process or to put prison officials on notice of a complaint; the grievance process must be carried through to its conclusion. Wright v. Hollingsworth, 260 F.3d 357, 358 (5th Cir. 2001). This is so regardless of whether the inmate's ultimate goal is a remedy not offered by the administrative process, such as money damages. Id.

Plaintiff admits that he was aware of the grievance process. He successfully completed it with respect to some of his claims. However, as noted supra, in response to Defendants' motion the only evidence he has submitted to show compliance with respect to all his claims is what he represents to be a copy of an alleged amendment to his grievance. [28] at 3. This document is not stamped received by WGCF. Moreover, even if this amendment could be construed to cover the remaining claims not covered by the undisputedly filed grievance, this document is dated January 2, 2013. Plaintiff signed the instant lawsuit on January 9, 2013. [1]. Given that his initial grievance took fifty-five days to process [32-1], it is inconceivable that a second grievance regarding entirely different matters would have been completely processed through two steps in seven days. The Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies, except with respect to the matters covered by his November 10, 2012 grievance. [32-1] at 5.

LOCKS AND LOCKED DOORS

Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims concerning denial of a padlock and locking of cell doors for failure to allege a constitutional violation. The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment of convicted inmates but Defendants contend that Plaintiff's allegations do not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.

While the Constitution does not require that custodial inmates be housed in comfortable prisons, the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment does require that prisoners be afforded "humane conditions of confinement" and prison officials are to ensure that inmates receive adequate food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. In order to establish an Eighth Amendment violation regarding conditions of confinement, an inmate must establish: first, that the deprivation alleged was sufficiently serious (i.e., an official's act or omission must have resulted in the denial of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities"); and second, that the prison official possessed a sufficiently culpable state of mind. The required state of mind for cases related to prison conditions is that the official acted with deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety. Deliberate indifference is established by showing that the defendant officials "(1) were aware of facts from which an inference of excessive risk to the prisoner's health or safety could be drawn and (2) that they actually drew an inference that such potential for harm existed."

Herman v. Holiday, 238 F.3d 660, 664 (5th Cir. 2001)(internal citations omitted). In this case, Defendant Miller signed the first step response to the only grievance of record and Defendant Mack signed the second step ...


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