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McCann v. Shearin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 11, 2015

CHRIS McCANN, Plaintiff,
BOBBY SHEARIN, et al., Defendants.


ROGER W. TITUS, District Judge.

Pending in the above-captioned civil rights action is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 43). Also pending are Plaintiff's Motions for Discovery (ECF No. 28), to Amend the Complaint (ECF No. 37), for Injunction and Protective Order (ECF No. 38), and for Extension of Time (ECF No. 48).[1] The undersigned finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, shall be granted and Plaintiff's pending motions shall be denied.

Allegations in the Complaint

Plaintiff Chris McCann ("McCann") is a prisoner confined to the custody of the Maryland Division of Correction ("DOC") in North Branch Correctional Institution ("NBCI"). The instant Complaint concerns conditions of confinement at NBCI. McCann alleges in the original Complaint that NBCI is overcrowded, causing the prison to be unsafe and depriving inmates of access to healthcare, legal material, and recreation or exercise. ECF No. 1 at 3.

McCann states that NBCI was designed as a super-max, single-cell facility, but due to the need for bed space the DOC has turned NBCI into a "population prison" without improving the "area provided." Id. at 4. He claims the population at NBCI is a mix of "max 1 and max 2 and death row, " and asserts that NBCI has been characterized by the Secretary of the DOC as a maximum security prison reserved for the "worst of the worst." Id. McCann cites to DOC directives ("DCD") which provide a mission statement defining NBCI as a prison reserved for inmates who "pose a high risk of violence and cannot be housed in any other institution." Id. at 4.

At the time McCann filed his Complaint, prisoners at NBCI were locked into cells with their cellmates 23 hours a day with one hour of out-of-cell recreation, which was later changed to one hour per week. Id. McCann observes that even spouses are not required to spend that much time together in close quarters, yet still fight; requiring "the worst of the worst" to spend that much time together is a recipe for violence. Id. He states he has been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder and has "been forced to hurt people." Id. McCann claims the conditions under which he is confined are detrimental to his rehabilitation. Id. He further claims that when "somebody's cellmate wants to fight over anything at all, you have no choice but to fight." Id. at 5. Since the cell doors are "solid steel, " McCann claims that Correctional Officers cannot hear cries for help unless they are near the door. Id. McCann claims that, "half [of the correctional officers] aren't even on the tier, much less near the cell." Id. McCann alleges that double-celling under these conditions also increases the chances of sexual assault which led to murders of inmates by their cellmates because there is a delay in help arriving for the victim. Id.

McCann states that for most of the year in 2013, NBCI was locked down and correctional officers were protesting because their safety was endangered. Id. at 5. He claims that officers are unable to respond because they are fearful and there is no room inside the cells for them to step in to break up a fight. Id. at 5-6. Rather, officers order the inmates to stop fighting and wait for compliance, which McCann states rarely happens. Id. at 6. When the inmates fail to comply, officers resort to spraying mace inside the cell "until they stop which takes a while." Id. McCann points out that officers are provided protective gear to wear, but are still fearful for their safety, while inmates are not provided such gear. Id. Thus, inmates are left feeling unsafe in cells designed for one person, shared with another. Id. McCann alleges the use of a single cell to double cell inmates violates standards in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Maryland Commission on Correctional Standards, American Correctional Association, and "several psychological institutions." Id.

In addition to the lack of safety from inmate-on-inmate violence, McCann asserts that overcrowding also forces idleness on the population. Id. He states that access to educational, vocational, and other "constructive outlets" are severely limited or non-existent. Id. McCann claims that DOC policies attempt to prevent idleness because idleness promotes violence in the prison population. Id.

McCann claims the overcrowding also impacts on access to medical care. He states the large number of inmates, coupled with the limited amount of time officers have to do sick call, results in doctors and nurses being rushed through exams. Id. McCann claims that doctors are forced to forego examinations and "rush" diagnoses, leading to inaccurate evaluations of medical conditions. Id. He states this results in inmates not getting proper treatment. McCann claims this resulted in his permanent disfigurement and detachment of "stomach muscles and ligaments" and "partial organ failure" because he could not receive "actual treatment." Id.

McCann alleges that dental care is also adversely effected by the overcrowded conditions. He states that dentists must "forego caution and delicacy" in order to meet the high demand for services. He claims "teeth are messed up" and fillings fall out constantly. Dentists do not have time to properly determine if a tooth needs to be pulled, according to McCann, so teeth are pulled without that determination. Id. at 7.

McCann asserts it is not possible to exercise in the cells at NBCI because there is no room when two are assigned to a cell designed for one. He claims it is not possible to even walk back and forth in the cell, exposing inmates to a higher risk of heart problems, cardiovascular disease, and deep vein thrombosis, among other medical conditions. McCann further states that out-of-cell recreation time is inadequate because the prison is overcrowded. In addition, McCann states hygiene is limited due to the fact that there are 100 inmates on each tier with only 8 showers on the tier for all to use. Thus, it is not possible to receive a shower on a regular basis. Id. at 7.

McCann claims that access to legal material at NBCI is non-existent and it negatively impacts on the ability to challenge the validity of criminal convictions in the state courts. He asserts that the limited resources available to the Maryland Public Defender's Office results in an increased need for inmates to challenge their convictions via self-represented pleadings. McCann claims that errors are frequently made in those pleadings because there is no access to case law. Id. at 7-8.

McCann admits inmates at NBCI receive three meals a day, but states that because staff are unable to control population, inmates are fed in their cells. Because there are two people in each cell, McCann claims there is nowhere to eat and inmates are forced to eat off of the floor or the toilet. McCann states that attempting to eat standing up while holding the tray often results in the food being spilled which causes conflict among cellmates. Id. at 8.

McCann claims there is a "quota system" in place at NBCI to deal with rotation of the population. He explains that NBCI has four buildings which house inmates. One of those buildings is for "lock-up" or disciplinary segregation, which frequently has no bed space. In order for another inmate to be locked-up, one has to be released. He asserts any time someone is released from lock-up, officers have to issue a "bogus ticket" so someone else gets locked up and the bed space is taken. He asserts this affects due process rights by extending inmates' sentences through loss of good conduct time and adversely impacts on opportunities for parole. Id. at 8.

McCann claims that the quota system also impacts on the practice of assigning inmates to share cells as officers do not use a classification system to double-cell inmates. Inmates who are mentally ill are placed into cells with those who are not; members of rival gangs are put into cells together; and racist inmates are assigned cells with minorities. McCann claims this practice is being done in order to support the quota system by fomenting conflict which results in additional disciplinary charges. Id.

McCann requests as relief reduction of the inmate population at NBCI; and an injunction prohibiting random double celling assignments; and an end to the "quota system." In addition, he seeks an order forcing the DOC to process grievances and order the use of "freshly made buildings in Jessup to reduce population" while this case is pending. McCann also seeks to have the State of Maryland waive any criminal prosecutions for assault or murder he has to commit in self-defense and to hold the "state liable for damages or death" caused to McCann. Id. at 9.

This Court required McCann to supplement the original Complaint with a description of how the challenged conditions have caused personal injury to him. ECF No. 5. In the Amended Complaint, McCann explains that the overcrowded conditions, along with the "longest lockdown" in Maryland, have caused anxiety, stress, fear, and tension. ECF No. 11 at 5. McCann claims that he is five feet tall[2] and the bunks in the cell are five feet off the ground, but prison officials refused to put ladders or handrails on the bunks, causing him to fall, injuring his toe, in 2011. Id. Additionally, he claims he has developed chronic knee problems from jumping off the bunk. Id.

McCann alleges that due to the number of inmates, administrative remedy procedure requests ("ARP") that he has filed were never adequately addressed. He claims ARPs do not get investigated "forcing coordinator to summarize complaint." McCann asserts he is not articulate and his claims regarding mail, medical care, and retaliation are never adequately addressed, causing him to continue to suffer from all of the issues raised in the ARPs he has filed. Id.

McCann claims the forced idleness caused by the overcrowded conditions has denied him his "state right to rehabilitation." He further claims he is denied constructive outlets such as educational and vocational activities, leaving him "nothing [to do], but to brood with another in the cell." Id.

In terms of medical care, McCann alleges that in an incident occurring on May 5, 2012, he was taken to see a nurse after exposure to mace, but the nurse "could not flush [his] eyes of mace." Id. at 6. The examination was abandoned and McCann was told he was not in need of any further attention. Four days later, when a lieutenant was investigating the matter, McCann was again taken to see the nurse and diagnosed with a concussion and partial temporary blindness in his left eye. An x-ray was ordered on his skull and wrist, but due to the nurse being female, issues with his "private parts" were left untreated or undiagnosed until six months later. McCann states he was eventually taken to see a urologist who prescribed antibiotics and advised that McCann should return in 60 days. McCann was never taken back to the urologist and states he has been left in pain from a permanent torn ligament and "tissue to penile region." He claims he has permanent urination problems. Id.

McCann adds that when he fell from his bunk and injured his toe it took three weeks for him to be seen. He claims that in 2008 all medical braces were taken from inmates coming into NBCI pending approval for the braces. He states it took a year to get a medical brace back and during that time he was forced to perform heavy lifting, re-injuring an inguinal hernia he had surgically repaired six months prior at another prison. Id. at 6.

With regard to dental care, McCann claims that on January 10, 2010, a doctor ordered him to be seen by a dentist because half of his face was swollen from "tooth #11" which the dentist kept missing during previous visits. McCann attempted to explain "for years" that he is young, does not have all of his adult teeth, and his teeth are moving, with only four of his teeth are making contact. He states it took four years to get this diagnosis and in the interim he was grinding his teeth, causing them to break. He claims if the dentist had time to examine him properly, all the repairs would not have been necessary. McCann states that on April 30, 2012, tooth #21 was removed and was done on three visits, [3] causing him to suffer pain between visits. On March 14, 2012, McCann states a filling fell out of one of his teeth and he had to wait until March 28, 2012 to be seen, leaving him in pain while he waited. When he returned to the dentist, he states the dentist cracked his tooth because he was rushing. Id. at 7.

McCann alleges the lack of space inside the cell for exercise and the lack of out-of-cell recreation affects him because he has heart and vascular problems which are exacerbated by the lack of exercise. He states he has bed sores and muscle atrophy from laying around in his cell. McCann further asserts that the day room has 16 seats with no additional room to move around. Id. at 7-8.

Regarding lack of access to legal materials, McCann asserts that in 2008 he lost an appeal for custody and visitation in the Court of Special Appeals. On December 10, 2008, McCann states he had another "visitation hearing" and lost the case again because he had no access to legal material. He further alleges that in March of 2009, the Court of Special Appeals affirmed his criminal conviction and he had no knowledge on how to file a petition for writ of certiorari in the Court of Appeals. In 2010, McCann filed a federal habeas corpus in this Court seeking to toll the statute of limitation, but the case was dismissed as time-barred. McCann states he was forced on February 15, 2014, to file a petition for post-conviction relief without the assistance of counsel because the public defender declined his case. McCann attempted to "dismiss" the attorney assigned to represent him at the hearing, but was informed he would have to proceed without counsel if he did so. He states he attempted to dismiss the attorney because the attorney refused to do anything for him. Id. at 8-9.

McCann claims that the prison grievance system "requires us to use case law" and he has been "shot down for not being able to give information" on ARPs. He asserts this has prevented him from exhausting administrative remedies as required. McCann adds that a civil case he filed in the Allegany County state court[4] was dismissed when he failed to provide "proof of service." He claims if he had access to legal material he would have known about this requirement. Id. at 9-10.

McCann claims that mail is often lost or misdirected because it is sent to the Western Correctional Institution ("WCI") mailroom. He states he has had several court cases as well as several grievances dismissed because mail does not make it to the intended destination. McCann alleges that NBCI officers claim they can't do anything about the WCI mailroom losing mail because it is a different prison and some of the officers use this as an excuse to steal mail. Specifically, McCann states Civil Action RWT-12-1878 was dismissed by this Court because the amended petition was not received; three civil cases[5] were dismissed by an Allegany County court; and thirteen grievances could not be exhausted because his mail did not reach its destination. Id. at 10.

McCann asserts he has missed several classification yearly reviews or the reviews are done in absentia due to the number of inmates case managers are required to serve. As a result, errors in his base file cannot be corrected, assistance with institutional problems is unavailable, and there is no opportunity plan for programming needs. McCann asserts this negatively impacts on institutional adjustment as well as possibilities for release on parole. McCann states that psychological treatment is largely unavailable and he has been constantly retaliated ...

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