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Thomas v. Oliver

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 30, 2018

CHRISTIAN THOMAS, et al., Plaintiffs



         These consolidated civil rights cases were filed by federal pre-trial detainees who are, or were[1] at the time the complaint was filed, confined to the Chesapeake Detention Facility (“CDF”) in Baltimore, Maryland claiming the conditions at the facility violate constitutional standards and seeking injunctive relief. In response Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 72. The motion is opposed by Plaintiff Donald McDuffin Williams (ECF No. 76)[2] who also moves for appointment of counsel (ECF No. 69) and for default judgment (ECF No. 74). The Court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, and based upon the evidence presented, Defendants' motion shall be granted, the complaints shall be dismissed without prejudice for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and the motions for injunctive relief shall be denied. Because the complaints must be dismissed on this basis, the pending motion for appointment of counsel shall be denied.


         Plaintiffs' Claims

         Plaintiffs assert that Defendants, the acting warden and assistant warden of CDF, knew about and disregarded environmental hazards within the prison including the existence of black mold and dust. ECF No. 1 at p. 3; ECF No. 13 at p. 2; ECF No. 36 at p. 6; ECF No. 39 at p. 6; ECF No. 41 at p. 6; ECF No. 43 at p. 6. Plaintiff Williams asserts that on June 24, 2017, he notified Defendants that there is waste material, including human feces, rotting garbage, cockroaches, and mice in the bottom of “more than one pipe chase” and that there were stagnant pools of water, clogged drains, mold and mildew in the showers. ECF No. 1 at p. 4.

         In response to Williams's complaint, Oliver responded on July 7, 2017, as follows:

Thank you for your inquiries referencing the facility. As there are challenges referencing the physical structure due to age, we have a team of staffers working very hard to ensure the upkeep of the facility. We are accredited by the American Correctional Association, Maryland Commission on Correctional Standards, National Commission on Correctional Health and the Federal QAR - Quality Assurance Review.

ECF No. 1-2 at p. 1. Williams states that Oliver did not address any of the particular hazards he noted in his complaint. ECF No. 1 at p. 4.

         On September 19, 2017, an annual re-accreditation audit took place at CDF and Williams claims the facility's Dietary Department failed to pass inspection because of numerous violations, notably, the presence of mold. Following that failure, Williams states that Oliver closed the Dietary Department as of September 21, 2017, until further notice. ECF No. 1 at pp. 4-5.

         In his supplemental complaint, Williams states that he is “an on-call 24 hour service maintenance worker who has been working in this position since December 13, 2016.” ECF No. 13 at p. 3. He claims that because Defendants did not take action to remedy the conditions at CDF about which he complained in writing, he “is now experiencing continued nasal irritation, throat and sinus infections, shortness of breath, and skin rashes.” Id. at p. 4. He further alleges that he has not been provided proper medical treatment for these symptoms. Id. Williams cites Maxie v. Levenhagen, 2014 WL 3828292 at *1 (N.D. Ind. Aug. 4, 2014) for the proposition that the presence of black mold and mildew satisfies the objective element of an Eighth Amendment claim provided that the plaintiff alleges he suffers or is at substantial risk of suffering an injury or health problem as a result. Id.

         In the complaints filed by Gilbert Davis (ECF No. 36), Mitchell Brooks (ECF No. 39), Thomas Hearn (ECF No. 41), and DeMarcus Moore (ECF No. 43), which were consolidated with the lead case and are identical in content, plaintiffs state they are double-celled in cells that were designed to house only one person requiring them to share 30 to 35 square feet with a cellmate. ECF No. 36, 39, 41, and 43 at p. 2 (hereinafter “Consolidated Complaints”). They explain that the bed in the cell, which is a bunk-style bed, takes up approximately 20 square feet of the space making the actual floor space approximately 20 to 24 square feet, disregarding the possible presence of other furniture in the cell. Id. at p. 3. They allege this violates the American Correctional Association (ACA) standards as well as the Department of Public Health (DPH) regulations. Id. In addition, they claim that “numerous professional and correctional organizations have promulgated ‘minimum standards' for cell size” ranging from 49 square feet to 90 square feet. Id. at pp. 3-4, citing National Sheriff's Association; Building Officials and Code Administrators, Inc. BOCA Basis Building Code, 1975, §201.3; National Clearinghouse for Criminal Justice Planning and Architecture; ACA, Manual of Correctional Standards, 49; National Advisory Commission for Criminal Justice Standards and Goals, Corrections standard 11.1, p. 353; The International Conference of Building Officials, Uniform Building Code §1307B, p. 83; American Public Health Association; Federal Standards for Prisons and Jails, 1980, §§2.02-2.06. Specifically, they state that the Federal minimum standard is 50 square feet in holding facilities; 60 square feet for regular cells where inmates are held for less than 10 hours per day; 70 square feet in detention facilities where inmates are held for more than 10 hours per day; and at least 80 square feet in long term facilities. Consolidated Complaints at p. 4.

         They claim that the population at CDF “far exceeds the ability to allow 35 square feet of day space per inmate.” Id. They maintain that a day room is required to provide 35 square feet of floor space per inmate, excluding lavatories, showers, and toilets, and must provide sufficient seating, writing and eating surfaces. Id. At CDF, however, in C Tier, Quad 4, the dayroom which serves as the dining area does not provide enough tables for the inmates to sit requiring some to eat their meals in their cells, near a toilet. Id.

         Plaintiffs state that CDF does not provide one operable shower for every 16 inmates, as required. Id.

         The facility is not air-conditioned and Plaintiffs state that temperatures reach 100 degrees in the Summer. In the Winter months, it is so cold inside the facility that “prisoners can see their breath.” Id. at p. 5. The ventilation system at CDF consists of “a primitive blower system” that uses a “fan [to] bring in air from outside while others pull out the internal air.” Id.

         Plaintiffs claim that CDF is “filled” with vermin, mice, cockroaches, and flies. Id.

         They claim the plumbing is antiquated, deteriorated, and needs replacement. They assert it has “simply broken down from years of very heavy use without adequate preventative maintenance.” Id. The drains is the dietary area are “rotten and frequently clog, causing raw sewage to back up into the dietary floor.” Id. Plaintiffs state that the “grease traps/caps are missing, allowing a nauseating and foul gas to escape into the prison” causing “disease hazards in the kitchen.” Id.

         They claim the kitchen at CDF is actively infested with mice, roaches and flies; contains pools of standing water, and deposits of grease and grime on exposed surfaces as well as condensation that drips from surfaces potentially into food. Consolidated Complaints at pp. 5-6. Further they claim that food contact surfaces are unsanitary; food preparation equipment has dried food residue on it; and the tray washing machine was not operational for approximately six months. Id. at p. 6.

         They claim the noise level inside the facility is “annoying and irritating over time” and is “so intolerable and intrusive that it renders ...

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