United States District Court, D. Maryland
JOHN GEORGE SIMKUS, JR. Plaintiff
W. Grimm United States District Judge
John Simkus, Jr. is incarcerated at Patuxent Institution,
where he is housed in the "DC" building. He
originally alleged that, for approximately one month, the
housing unit had not had functioning hot water, and any
showers that he and other inmates housed in the mental health
unit received involved using cold water. Compl., ECF NO.1. He
claims that inmates housed on other units also located in the
DC building, including disciplinary and administrative
segregation, were escorted to other buildings to take hot
showers, while those housed in the mental health unit were
not so accommodated. Id.
updated his original correspondence, which was construed as a
civil rights complaint, and admitted that the hot water was
returned to the building, but claimed that it was too hot.
Supp., ECF NO.2. He asserts that the water is now so scalding
hot that it cannot be used and they are left with the choice
between a shower that is too cold or too hot. Id.
Simkus claims that the inability to repair the hot water
system must be intentional, given that it was caused by a
broken valve that, in his view, could have been repaired
quickly. Compl. 5. He states that the cold water hurts his
arthritic joints and that his heart condition
("a-fib") is likely to worsen if he is forced to
take showers in the manner described. !d. at 5-6;
Supp. 3. Because Simkus fails to state a claim for a
violation of his Constitutional rights, I will dismiss his
to 28 U.S.C. S 1915(a)(1), the Court must screen prisoner
complaints and dismiss any complaint that is frivolous,
malicious or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted. In deciding whether a complaint is frivolous,
"[t]he district court need not look beyond the
.... It must, however, hold
the pro se complaint to less stringent standards than
pleadings drafted by attorneys and must read the complaint
liberally." See White v. White, 886 F.2d 721,
722-23 (4th Cir. 1989). Conditions that "deprive inmates
of the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities" may amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981).
However, conditions that are merely "restrictive or even
harsh ... are part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay
for their offenses against society." Id.
establish the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment, a
prisoner must prove two elements-that 'the deprivation of
[a] basic human need was objectively
"sufficiently serious, '" and that
'subjectively "the officials acted with a
sufficiently culpable state of mind."""
Shakka v. Smith, 71 F.3d 162, 166 (4th Cir. 1995)
(emphasis in original) (citation omitted). "These
requirements spring from the text of the amendment itself;
absent intentionality, a condition imposed on an inmate
cannot properly be called 'punishment, ' and absent
severity, such punishment cannot be called 'cruel and
unusual.'" Iko v. Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 238
(4th Cir. 2008) (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S.
294, 298-300 (1991)).
establish a sufficiently culpable state of mind, there must
be evidence that a known excessive risk of harm to the
inmate's health or safety was disregarded. See
Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298-99. "In other words,
'the test is whether the guards know the plaintiff inmate
faces a serious danger to his safety and they could avert the
danger easily yet they fail to do so.'' Brown v.
N.C Dep't of Corr., 612 F.3d 720, 723 (4th Cir.
2010) (quoting Case v. Ahitow, 301 F.3d 605, 607
(7th Cir. 2002)). Conduct is not actionable under the Eighth
Amendment unless it "transgress[es] bright lines"
of clearly-established pre-existing law. Maciariello v.
Sumner, 973 F.2d 295, 298 (4th Cir. 1992).
objective prong of a conditions claim requires proof of an
injury. "[T]o withstand summary judgment on an Eighth
Amendment challenge to prison conditions a plaintiff must
produce evidence of a serious or significant physical or
emotional injury resulting from the challenged
conditions." Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d
1375, 1381 (4th Cir. 1993). "Only extreme deprivations
are adequate to satisfy the objective component of an Eighth
Amendment claim regarding conditions of confinement"
De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 634 (4th
Cir. 2003). Demonstration of an extreme deprivation
proscribed by the Eighth Amendment requires proof of "a
serious or significant physical or emotional injury resulting
from the challenged conditions." Id. (quoting
Stricter, 989 F.2d at 1381).
has not alleged that any prison official responsible for
repairing the hot water is aware that the lack of hot water
has caused an injury to him, or that the failure to repair
the hot water is anything other than simple incompetence.
Further, he does not allege an actual, significant physical
or emotional injury; rather, he simply asserts that he may
suffer one at some point in the future "if the cold
water causes his heart to go into an irregular rhythm. A
future injury if dire predictions prove true is insufficient
to sustain an Eighth Amendment claim.
the only "condition" asserted is the water
temperature available to Simkus and other inmates in his
housing unit for showers. A choice between cold or unbearably
hot showers, on its own, falls far short of the sort of
conditions prohibited by the Constitution. Compare
Williams v. Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 825 (4th Cir.
1991) (holding that verified complaint "describing] his
cell toilet, shared by twelve inmates, as 'constantly
coated with urine day and night, ' ... contend[ing] that
only four showers were available for ninety-six inmates ...
point[ing] out that the floors leading to the showers were
constantly flooded with sewage as a result of toilets that
continually leak" and "assert[ing] deprivation of
blankets and coats, and that [prison] was infested with
insects and vermin ... sufficiently described unsanitary and
overcrowded conditions [to] withstand summary
judgment"), with Reynolds v. Powell, 370 F.3d
1028, 1031 (10th Cir. 2004) (slippery shower floors due to
standing water do not state an Eighth Amendment claim;
collecting cases holding the same), and Snipes v.
DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 592 (7th Cir. 1996) (an inch or
two of standing dirty water in a shower is not an excessive
risk to health or safety or a denial of a life necessity).
Indeed, in Lopez v. Robinson, 914 F.2d 486, 492 (4th
Cir. 1990), the Fourth Circuit observed that the inmate
appellants had not cited a single case supporting their
position that inadequate hot water for their showers violated
their Constitutional rights, and it concluded that
"there is no clearly established, sufficiently
contoured, right to hot showers in prison."
failed to state a colorable claim, the complaint must be
dismissed as frivolous. Plaintiff is reminded that under 28
U.S.C. -1915(g), he will not be granted in forma
pauperis status if he has "on 3 or more prior
occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility,
brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States
that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which ...