United States District Court, D. Maryland
JOSHUA R. BESSICK, Plaintiff,
COMM'R PATRICIA GOINS-JOHNSON, WARDEN RICHARD E. MILLER, JR., CHIEF OF SECURITY TODD K. FAITH and LIEUTENANT B. APPEL, Defendants.
THEODORE D. CHUANG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
September 6, 2016, self-represented Plaintiff Joshua R.
Bessick was assaulted by other inmates while returning to his
housing unit at Roxbury Correctional Institution
("RCI") in Hagerstown, Maryland. He now brings this
civil action against Defendants Patricia Goins-Johnson,
Commissioner of Correction for the Maryland Department of
Public Safety and Correctional Services; Richard E. Miller,
Jr., Warden of RCI; Todd K. Faith RCI Chief of Security; and
Lieutenant Appel, a correctional officer at RCI, pursuant to
42 U.S.C. 91983. Bessick alleges that Defendants: (1) failed
to protect him from harm while he was housed at RCI; (2)
failed to supervise their subordinates; (3) imposed
unconstitutional conditions of confinement; (4) denied him
adequate medical care; (5) failed to control inmate access to
dangerous weapons; (6) failed to "prevent prisoner
dominance"; and (7) failed to maintain adequate
staffing. Compl. ¶¶ 11-39, ECF No. .. He seeks $15
million in compensatory and punitive damages.
before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in
the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Bessick was
informed by the Court, pursuant to Roseboro v.
Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975), that
failure to file a memorandum in opposition to the Motion
could result in dismissal of the Complaint. Bessick did not
oppose the Motion. Upon consideration of the Complaint and
the Motion, the Court finds no hearing necessary.
See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth
below, Defendants' Motion, construed as a Motion for
Summary Judgment, will be GRANTED.
arrived at RCI in February 2016 and was placed in Housing
Unit 3. On the morning of September 6, 2016, as Bessick was
returning to that unit, two other inmates attacked him with
knives, causing lacerations to the right side of his face and
to his left hand. After the incident, RCI medical staff
treated Bessick, who received 59 sutures to close the wounds.
On September 13, 2016, Bessickss facial sutures were removed,
and medical staff noted that his wounds were healing well. On
September 19, 2016, when the sutures on Bessickss hand were
removed, Bessick told medical personnel that that his hand
was healing but he was still experiencing some pain. Bessick
did not have any additional complaints during that visit.
the assault, correctional officers searched the area and
recovered two homemade weapons. Although security video was
reviewed, the inmates who assaulted Bessick could not be
identified. Bessick did not cooperate with the investigation
and declined to give a statement. He was placed in voluntary
administrative segregation for his own safety until his
transfer to another facility.
to Bessick, Housing Unit 3 was "a well-known and
notoriously violent Gang Unit" where the incidence of
prison stabbing incidents was "exceptionally high."
Compl. ¶ 6. He alleges that upon his arrival in Unit 3,
members of the Black Guerrilla Family ("BGF") gang
asked him to hide their knives for them and to join the BGF.
Bessick declined either to join the BGF or to hide weapons
for BGF members. Instead, he wrote a note to the Housing Unit
Supervisors requesting to be transferred to another housing
unit. According to Bessick, he received no response to his
assert that contrary to Bessickss allegations, Unit 3 was not
a "well-known and notoriously violent Gang Unit" at
RCI. Id. According to Lt. Appel, the RCI
correctional officer responsible for intelligence matters,
"RCI houses members of Security Threat Groups in all of
the Housing Units" and does not assign such members to a
particular housing unit. Appel Decl. ¶ 3, Mot. Dismiss
Ex. 2, ECF No. 16-3. In addition, Lt. Appel asserts that
Bessick is "a validated member" of the BGF.
to Warden Miller, RCI correctional officers are trained to
respond appropriately to an inmate's request that he not
be housed with another inmate because of hostility between
them, different gang affiliations, or other safety concerns.
Upon such a request, correctional officers are trained to
arrange for a different cell assignment. Warden Miller,
Security Chief Faith, and Lt. Appel all assert that prior to
the September 2016 incident, they had not received any
information that Bessick was in danger or feared that he was
in danger of assault by any other inmate, nor did they have
information that any group targeted Bessick or intended to
harm him. According to Lt. Appel, when an inmate has a known
verified enemy, that enemy is listed in the Maryland
Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
Miller's duties include reviewing staff worksheets daily
to ensure that all posts are adequately staffed. According to
Warden Miller, at the time of Bessickss stabbing, the
security posts responsible for overseeing the movement of
inmates back to Unit 3 were adequately staffed. He asserts
that despite the best efforts of correctional staff,
including frequent searches of inmates' persons and
cells, inmates are adept at making, obtaining, and hiding
contraband weapons such as homemade knives.
their Motion, Defendants seek dismissal under Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or summary judgment under Rule
56. In support of their Motion, Defendants argue that (1) the
Eleventh Amendment bars claims against Defendants in their
official capacities; (2) Bessick has not alleged sufficient
facts to state a plausible claim for relief for Eighth
Amendment violations; (3) Bessick cannot demonstrate that
Defendants are liable under a theory of supervisory liability
under S 1983; and (4) Defendants are entitled to qualified
seek dismissal of the claims against them in their official
capacity pursuant to Eleventh Amendment immunity. To defeat a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint must
allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim
is plausible when the facts pleaded allow "the Court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Id. Although
courts should construe pleadings of self-represented
litigants liberally, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 94 (2007), legal conclusions or conclusory statements do
not suffice, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The Court must
examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual
allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the