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Alton v. Maryland Department of Public Safety

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 10, 2016



William M. Nickerson Senior United States District Judge

Pending in the above-entitled civil rights action is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment. ECF 20. Plaintiff opposes the motion. ECF 26 and 27. The Court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). Because Defendants have failed to address the claims fairly raised, the motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, shall be granted in part and denied in part without prejudice.


Plaintiff William E. Alton, III ("Alton"), a former prisoner in the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services ("DPSCS"), filed the instant complaint on March 19, 2015, together with a Motion for Injunctive Relief. On May 5, 2015, this Court denied Alton's request for injunctive relief as moot. ECF 9.

The complaint generally concerns Alton's claim that, as a disabled inmate, he was denied the same programming and opportunities as other non-disabled inmates. In his complaint, Alton alleges that on March 20, 2014, he was transferred to the Dorsey Run Correctional Facility ("DRCF") in Jessup, Maryland, which is a pre-release unit. He claims that the Addictions Treatment Protocol ("ATP") programming was not available at DRCF, describes his stay as "brief, and states he was assigned to the dietary job bank where he received blood-spill certification training. ECF 1 at p. 2.

Alton claims that Case Managers Ramsay and Elmore are "partially responsible" for the "injury suffered" by Alton because they knew or should have known that ATP was a mandatory requirement under DPSCS policy and that it was unavailable at DRCF. Alton adds that he was unable to earn good conduct credits while housed at DRCF and was required to wait "several days" before being classified to a job assignment. He further contends he was "denied the normal opportunity to work and learn valuable trade skills" like the other prisoners confined to DRCF. ECF 1 at pp. 2-3.

On April 14, 2014, Alton filed a complaint pursuant to the prison administrative remedy procedure ("ARP") asserting that Officer L. Allen wrote false notices of infraction against inmates and threatened them based solely on the fact that "they (we) were convicted of crimes." Five days later, Alton was transferred to Brockbridge Correctional Facility ("BBCF"), which Alton states is a violent and hostile prison reserved for minimum-security prisoners that does not have handicap accessible accommodations. At the time, Alton was classified at the lower security level of pre-release. ECF 1 at p. 3.

Alton alleges Defendants Warden Betty Johnson and Facility Administrator ("F.A.") Dionne Randolph are the supervisors in charge of BBCF and DRCF and, as such, are responsible for the abuse he experienced at both facilities at the hands of correctional staff. He claims the staff committing the abusive acts refused to provide their names, but involved a Major, two Lieutenants, and four Sergeants. He claims the first injury he suffered was a retaliatory transfer and that from April 18, 2014, through May 14, 2014, supervisory officials knew he was denied access to pain management medication as well as recreational activities including daily walks while housed at BBCF. Alton adds the supervisory staff also failed to intervene when Case Manager David Green and a Major denied reasonable modifications to accommodate Alton's physical disability and lack of mobility for purposes of his participation in a mandatory remedial drug treatment program, ATP. ECF 1 at p. 3.

Alton states he could not get around BBCF without experiencing pain and "infliction of injury" due to the multiple flights of stairs he was forced to climb on a daily basis. He alleges that the correctional officer named in his ARP ignored these conditions, made sarcastic remarks, and "abused [him] daily, " culminating in his transfer from BBCF to Roxbury Correctional Institution ("RCI"), which is a medium security prison. ECF 1 at p. 3.

On May 14, 2014, Alton states he was transported to the Central Booking and Intake Center en-route to RCI. When he was transferred, he states he was forced to board a non-handicapped accessible bus. He further alleges that when he arrived at Central Booking he was, denied food for a period of five days and denied medication for four and one-half days because he could not walk one-quarter of a mile from his housing unit to the chow hall and medical dispensary. He claims correctional officers under the supervision of Warden Michael J. Stouffer and Assistant Warden Denise A. Morgan subjected him to inhumane and hostile conditions, conspired with medical staff to falsify medical records, and destroyed or misplaced vital medical records. ECF 1 at p. 3.

Alton states he attempted to exhaust administrative remedies, but Major Miller at RCI resolved the matter informally by transferring Alton to a handicap accessible housing unit. Alton states housing unit one at RCI is accessible for the blind, but his assignment there was only temporary. He adds that the wardens were given notice of the issue via an ARP filed on May 19, 2014, and through his verbal complaints to staff from May 14 through 21, 2014. ECF 1 at pp. 3 -4.

On May 22, 2014, Alton states he was transferred from RCI to Jessup Correctional Institution ("JO"). He alleges he was again transported in a van that was not handicap accessible. He claims that Sgt. Wade forced him to climb difficult, narrow steps to board the bus and subjected him to verbal ridicule. Alton claims Wade attempted to place him in an isolation cage on the bus normally reserved for segregation inmates. When Alton refused because of the lack of leg and seating space, he claims Wade became irate and threatened to punch him in the face. Alton further alleges that Wade referenced his frequent complaints and "dared" him to file a grievance against him. Other correctional officers present intervened on Alton's behalf, blocking Wade from assaulting Alton. Alton states he sustained "visible injuries" to his legs, knees, and shins from climbing the steps. Upon his arrival to JCI, Alton was placed in a handicap accessible cell. ECF 1 at p. 4.

The following day, Alton arrived via DPSCS van at Eastern Correctional Institution ("ECI") where he was assigned to the Dorchester Unit dorms, which are not equipped with handicap accessible accommodations. Alton alleges the assignment was a form of punishment or retaliation. He states he suffered "injury" because the facility is not a pre-release unit and he was transferred to ECI against recommendations of case management staff at RCI, who canceled his assignment to ATP and assigned Alton to pre-release status. Alton describes ECI as hostile and states he was denied showers. Alton asserts that ECI Warden Kathleen Green and Facility Administrator Darryl Webster are responsible as supervisors for Lt. Drury, Captain Chester, and Sgt. Elliot. He claims Green and Webster knew or should have known about the actions of case management, but failed to intervene and "appeared to ignore [his] limitations and known disability for several months." ECF 1 at p. 4.

On June 5 and 6, 2014, Alton filed three ARPs concerning his conditions of confinement alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the Rehabilitation Act, and false imprisonment. He claims the administrative remedy coordinator, S. Gustus, improperly dismissed his claims concerning violations of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act and alleges she was engaged in a conspiratorial effort to deny Alton redress of his grievances. Alton states that while his ARPs were being investigated he was called to the medical department on "bogus passes" for the purpose of harassing and intimidating him. He claims that Webster, Drury, and Case Manager Scramlin participated in the harassment and intimidation. Specifically, he claims that Scramlin "threatened" that Alton could not be transferred from ECI until he completed the ATP; Drury ordered a search of his cell "without provocation or justification;" and Webster threatened him with administrative segregation or a transfer if he continued to file ARPs. ECF 1 at pp. 4-5.

On May 22, 2014, [1] Alton mailed legal documents to his attorney, Bert W. Kapinus, but his attorney claimed he never received the documents. On September 13, 2014, Alton received a package from a law firm, Wexler Wallace. Alton attempted to follow instructions from his attorney by returning legal forms via Federal Express, overnight delivery, but the mail was confiscated by Sgt. Witzke and Captain Holmes. Alton was given copies of the legal forms, but was not given the envelope based on a policy in place at ECI. Despite the policy, however, Alton claims he saw other inmates receive legal envelopes from the mailroom.[2] Alton claims that on December 25, 2014, Witzke mentioned the ARPs Alton had filed and threatened to have him transferred.[3] ECF 1 at p. 5.

On February 2, 2015, Alton filed an ARP complaining that mail from his father and his aunt that included money orders for $20 and $15 were never received and were not returned to the sender. He states that Gustus improperly dismissed the ARP. ECF 1 at pp. 5-6.

On March 9, 2015, Alton received legal mail from Special Prosecutor Thomas Krepp of the United States Attorney General's Office in Atlanta, Georgia, informing Alton he may be a victim of identity theft. He claims this letter was mailed on November 14, 2014, and appeared to be censored and copied by ECI prison officials. ECF 1 at p. 6.

On January 8, 2015, Alton filed another ARP against Officer J. Wright alleging violations of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act because Alton was told to "move faster or run to class like able bodied prisoners are capable of doing." In addition, Alton alleges that all parties named who were employed at ECI at the time knew or should have known that he would not be able to complete ATP due to his imminent release date. He states he repeatedly informed ECI staff of this fact and also clearly explained that he is disabled due to a spinal cord injury with resultant Brown Sequard Syndrome[4] as well as recurrent hernia, lower disc injury, and a hyper-extended knee. Alton alleges that he was maliciously required to attend ATP classes without regard to his physical limitations and the unlikelihood of finishing the course because correctional staff wanted to continue to collect both state and federal funding for the program. He claims he attended the class under duress as he was threatened with the loss of diminution credits if he declined to go. ECF 1 at p. 6.

On February 10, 2015, Alton claims that Drury ordered Officers Nelson and Riggins to search his cell. ECF 1 at p. 6.

On February 17, 2015, Alton states he could not attend any meals due to ice and inclement weather. ECF 1 at p. 7.

On February 18, 2015, Drury harassed Alton in the dining hall during lunch, stating, "don't start no trouble it won't be none and don't file any lawsuits." ECF 1 at pp. 6-7.

On February 19, 2015, Alton claims Drury "taunted" him about his disability and bragged about winning acquittals in several lawsuits filed by both ...

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