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Collins v. Brockbridge Correctional Facility

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 12, 2019




         Barry Jay Collins, an inmate at Brockbridge Correctional Facility ("BCF") in Jessup, Maryland, has filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. S 1983 alleging a violation of his constitutional rights in connection with strip searches conducted in February 2017. In response, Defendants Warden Casey Campbell and Sergeant Melissa Vrolijk, the only Defendants to have been properly served, have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be GRANTED, and the claims against unserved Defendants will be DISMISSED.


         On February 1, 2017, the Contraband Interdiction Team ("CIT") and "Green Team" at BCF executed a mass shakedown of the facility, including strip searches of inmates. Compl. 4, ECF NO.1. Collins, who was housed in the Kent Dorm in Bunk 40, was strip-searched in the bunk area and subjected to a visual body cavity search, both in the presence of the members of the CIT and "all other inmates." Id. According to Collins, he was ordered to stand naked approximately 12 inches away from his bunkmate, who was ordered to lie face-up on his bunk.

         On February 9, 2017, Collins filed a grievance pursuant to the prisonss administrative remedy procedure ("ARP") complaining about the strip search and about the handling of his personal property, including legal mail. Sgt. Vrolijk, the BCF Administrative Remedy Coordinator, returned Collinsss ARP on February 12, 2017, with instructions to resubmit it with only one complain.. On February 13, 2017, Collins resubmitted the ARP, No. BCF-0083-17, in which he limited his complaint to the strip search. On February 15, 2017, Sgt. Vrolijk acknowledged receipt of this ARP.

         According to Collins, on February 17, 2017, Sgt. Vrolijk called him to her office and explained that BCF correctional staff "had no control over what the CIT and Green Team did." Id. Sgt. Vrolijk told Collins that he was wasting his time and encouraged him to withdraw the ARP. Collins refused to do so and stated that he wanted to pursue the matter because his rights had been violated.

         On February 28, 207,, before Collins received a response to his ARP, the CIT and Green Team conducted another search of the facility during which Collins was again subjected to a strip search and visual body cavity search in the same manner as on the prior occasion. On March 2, 2017, Collins filed another ARP in which he complained that the searches violated Division of Correction Directives ("DCDs") and "PREA rules." ARP No. BCF-0105-17 at 1, Mot. Dismiss Ex. 2 at 20, ECF No. 19-4. On March 4, 2017, Sgt. Vrolijk sent Collins a receipt acknowledging the filing of the second ARP.

         On March 24, 2017, Collins was summoned to Sgt. Vrolijkss office, where she told him that there was nothing she could do about the way searches had been conducted and advised he should not cite the DCDs when he did not know what they said. Collins replied that he knew the search violated his constitutional rights. Sgt. Vrolijk responded that there were "grey areas" in the rules and that "they didn't really have to follow them." Compl. 5. Sgt. Vrolijk later reviewed the DCDs with Collins, including the requirement that searches of housing units "shall be conducted in a manner which will avoid unnecessary force, embarrassmen,, or indignity to the inmate." Id. [Sgt. Vrolijk again stated that there were "grey areas," claimed that the DCDs did not necessarily have to be followed, and asked Collins to withdraw the ARP. Id. Collins declined to do so.

         On March 26, 2017, Collins asked Sgt. Vrolijk about the Wardenss response to both of his ARPs. According to Collins, Sgt. Vrolijk told him that she had not given the ARPs to the Warden because it would be a waste of the Wardenss time do so "because they can get away with doing what [they're] doing." Id. Collins then wrote a letter directly to the Warden and put it into the Wardenss mailbox. Collins never received a response from Warden Campbel.. Furthermore, Warden Campbell did not provide a response to the ARPs within the 45-day response period provided for under the DCDs.

         Warden Campbell and Sgt. Vrolijk do not deny that the strip searches were conducted, but they deny that Collinsss ARPs were ignored. Rather, Collins' ARPs were investigated and dismissed as non-meritoriou..

         Collins' first ARP, No. BCF-0083-17, was assigned by Sgt. Vrolijk to Captain Kimberly Bey to conduct an investigation and submit a report by March 5, 2017. As part of that investigation, Bey interviewed three CIT leaders, Sgt. Sydney Jackson, Sgt. Lander Walley, and Cpl. Brandon Wallace. In response to Bey's inquiry, all three officers provided the same, form written statement which stated that strip searches are conducted in a restroom when space is available, but that because the restrooms at BCF are too small for the safe conduct of a strip search, CIT conducts strip searches in the dormitories. No. women or cameras are present during strip searches of male inmates.

         On April 12, 2017, Bey issued a report recommending dismissal of the ARP as lacking merit because Collins was not touched by staff, he was not strip searched in front of women, he was not subjected to demoralizing or degrading conduct, and "at no time was Inmate Collins made to feel uncomfortable." Bey Report 1, Mot. Dismiss Ex. 2 at 14, ECF No. 19-4. In Bey's view, "[s]taff performed a job duty professionally and routinely as they always do when activated for these interdictions." Id.

         On May 8, 2017, Warden Campbell adopted Bey's recommendation and issued a response to the ARP in which he stated that "[f]here is no proof that you were demoralized or degraded by any staff member or members at any time during your strip search." Wardenss Response 1, Mot. Dismiss Ex. 2 at 12, ECF No. 19-4.

         Collins' second ARP, No. BCF-0105-17, was also assigned to Captain Bey for an investigation, to be completed by April 2, 2017. In this ARP, Collins alleged that the strip searches violated both the DCDs and the Prison Rape Elimination Act ("PREA",, 42 U.S.C. SS 15601-15609 (2012). Capt. Bey's report on this ARP, dated April 12, 2017, is almost identical to her report on the first ARP in that it relies on the same form narrative provided by the CIT leaders and reaches the same conclusions. Capt. Bey recommended that ARP No. BCF-0105-17 be dismissed as repetitive of, and for the same reasons underlying the dismissal of, ARP No. BCF-0083-17. On May 8, 2017, Warden Campbell issued a response to ARP ...

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