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Hawes v. Wolfe

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 7, 2019

TRACEY HAWES, #1467573, #239-770, Plaintiff
v.
JOHN WOLFE, Warden, CO II AMEESHA HALL, Housing Unit # 4, CO II MELVIN HARRIS, Housing Unit # 4, CO II ADRION CHRISTOPHER, Housing Unit # 4, CO II JERMAINE STURGIS, Housing Unit # CO II VERNON COLLINS, Housing Unit # 4, CO II SKYLAR WATERS, Housing Unit # 4, CO II CHARLES FONTAINE, Housing Unit # 4 or Other Unit, SGT. JASON DERR, Housing Unit # 4, LT. VANESSA JONES, LT. JASON WALLACE, SGT. JOHN BROMLEY, Housing Unit # 4, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Tracey Hawes, a Maryland prisoner, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against former Eastern Correctional Institution (“ECI”) Warden John Wolfe[1] and eleven ECI officers alleging that he was kept under unconstitutional conditions of confinement when housed on “staff alert” status between May 4 and May 13, 2016. ECF No. 1. In his unverified complaint, Hawes seeks compensatory damages of $200, 000.00 and punitive damages of $350, 000.00.[2]

         Hawes does not contest the propriety of the cell search that preceded his removal from general population housing, nor does he complain about disciplinary sanctions imposed after contraband was uncovered during the search.[3] Instead, his claims focus on the restrictions and conditions imposed upon him during the ten days during which he was confined on staff alert status.

         Defendants move to dismiss or alternatively for summary judgment in their favor, arguing inter alia that Hawes' Eighth Amendment and due process rights were not violated. ECF No. 21. To date, Hawes has not opposed Defendants' dispositive motion.[4] The motion may be decided without a hearing. See Local. Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For reasons set forth herein, summary judgment will be entered in favor of Defendants.

         Background

         A. Plaintiff's Statement of Facts

         Hawes contends that on May 4, 2016, he was escorted from Housing Unit #6 to Housing Unit #4, a segregation unit, for violation of an institutional rule. ECF No. 1, p. 6. Once there, he was stripped of clothing, given one sheet, and left to sleep on a floor infested with bacteria.[5] Id., pp. 6-7. Hawes also states that he was not provided a mattress, toiletries, soap, clothing, mail, stationary, legal documents, [6] mail, [7] or stationery in violation of ECI Institutional Directive (“ID”) 110.0006.1. Id. When he inquired why he was in a cell in such condition, he was informed that when on staff alert status, a prisoner's clothing was removed for five days. Id. at 8.

         Hawes protested the conditions to which he was subjected by holding open his feed slot. Id. at 8. He complains that food was occasionally withheld between May 4 and May 9, 2016, by Defendants Hall, Harris, Christopher, Collins, Waters and Fontaine because he kept the feed slot open and refused to walk to the back of the cell. Id. Hawes states that he never refused his meals, and that in addition to an Eighth Amendment violation, the withholding of food violated ID 110.0006.1, which states, “food shall never be used as a form of punishment.” Id.

         Hawes also claims that from May 4, 2016, through May 13, 2016, he was not permitted to take a shower or have a daily hour of recreation in violation of state law, federal law, and institutional rules. Id.

         Hawes alleges that he was denied proper medical care and access to sick call slips and did not receive his .81 mg of daily aspirin taken for a heart condition and treatment for chest pain. Id. at 8-9. As a result, he claims to suffer now from depression, anxiety, and insomnia for which he now takes Doxepin. Id. at p. 9.[8]

         B. Defendants' Statement of Facts

         This action represents Hawes' second lawsuit concerning events arising out of the May 4, 2016, search of his cell, located on Housing Unit #6. On that date, three ECI officers[9] conducted a search of Hawes' cell, and found Hawes wearing a prohibited cell phone watch. A charging cable also was discovered. ECF No. 21-3, Notice of Inmate Rule Violation #2016-015; see also Hawes v. Foxwell, et al., Civil Action No. DKC-17-2598 (D. Md.) (“Hawes I”), [10] ECF No. 11-2 at 4-5 (Notice of Inmate Rule Violation); ECF No. 11-3, ¶ 4 (Blake Decl.); ECF No. 11-4, ¶ 4 (Clayton Decl.); ECF No. 11-5, ¶ 4 (Arndt Decl.). The three officers escorted Hawes to the dayroom to be strip-searched. Hawes I, ECF No. 11-2 at 4. While in the dayroom, Hawes threatened staff and the prisoner who had informed staff about the cell phone watch. ECF No. 21-3; see also Hawes I, Id. He received a notice of inmate rule violation for possessing the contraband and for threatening staff and other inmates, and was taken to Housing Unit #4, where he was placed on administrative segregation pending adjustment on a level one staff alert due to his behavior, threats, and violation of inmate rules. ECF No. 21-3; see also Hawes I, ECF No. 11-2 at 5-6, 11. Hawes later pleaded guilty to three rule violations and received ninety days in disciplinary segregation. Hawes I, id., ECF No. 11-2 at 9-11.

         Hawes was taken to Cell B1 in Housing Unit 4 on May 4, 2016, and placed on “Staff Alert Level I” status. ECF No. 21-4, Record of Segregation Confinement at 1; ECF No. 21-5, Traffic History; ECF No. 21-6, Staff Alert Memorandums at 5. As defined in ECI Directive ECI.110.0006, staff alert status is “[a] temporary custody status for the retention of assaultive or aggressive inmates on disciplinary or administrative segregation, who have exhibited behavior that is a threat to the security and order of the institution or who threaten harm to themselves, others or property.” ECF No. 21-7, Facility Directive Number ECI.110.0006 at 3. Under the Directive, Staff Alert Restriction Levels I, II, and III are used for progressive control of aggressive or assaultive prisoners and a worksheet (id., Attachment B) is provided as a guideline that does not restrict the sanctions that may be imposed. Id. at 12, 16. A prisoner's behavior is evaluated every day and, if he is compliant, he goes to the next level of staff alert (from Staff Alert Level I to Staff Alert Level II to Staff Alert Level III) and will be removed from Staff Alert Status completely in five days. ECF No. 21-8, Declaration of Michael Daugherty, ¶ 7. If non-compliant (e.g., by refusing to move to the back of the cell or holding open the feed-up slot), he will remain on Staff Alert Status for a longer period. Id.

         All prisoners are strip-searched after being transferred to a Staff Alert cell, then receive a cool down period of roughly half an hour before staff attempt to interact to provide the paper gown and booties provided to those on Staff Alert Level I. Id. at ¶6. If a prisoner does not comply with officers' orders to move to the back of the cell, the officers will not open the slot to give him the paper gown and booties, thus avoiding a situation where the prisoner could assault them. Id.

         There is no bunk or mattress inside the Staff Alert cell, although Staff Alert Level II prisoners may receive a mattress at the discretion of the officer in charge. Id., ¶ 8. Medical personnel walk by the Staff Alert cells daily to provide necessary medical attention. Id., ¶ 9. Prescription medications are handed out if prisoners comply with officers' orders. Id. If a prisoner does not comply with officers' orders (e.g., to move to the back of the cell and close the feed-up slot), the officers will not open the slot and put themselves in a situation where they are subject to assault. Id., ΒΆ 12. Prisoners are ordered to the rear of ...


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