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Brown v. Martinez

July 31, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Vanaskie


I. Introduction

David Brown, an inmate housed at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Dallas"), filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against twenty-five (25) past and present employees of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole ("the Board") and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"). On March 19, 2007, the Court granted, in part, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Amended Summary Judgment Motion. (See Dkt. Entry 85). Two Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claims related to Brown's stay in SCI-Camp Hill's Special Management Unit ("SMU") remain.*fn1

Brown alleges that defendants agreed to conduct unauthorized psychological experiments on the SMU inmates by depriving them of adequate nutrition. Plaintiff claims he was weighed every thirty days "to insure that he would fall below this normal body weight." If his weight fell, defendants "would instruct the Food Service Department to increase the food portion." As a result of these experiments Brown claims to have suffered physical and psychological harm. (Dkt. Entry 1, Complaint at ¶¶ 32-33.)

Next, Brown alleges defendants subjected him to sleep deprivation experiments. (Id. at ¶ 35.) Specifically, he claims that he was exposed to constant illumination, cast by a security nightlight in his cell, which was located directly above his head. (Id. at ¶ 34.) Brown states that the high gloss, oil based, beige color paint of the SMU walls enhanced the brightness of the security light at night, impeding his ability to sleep. Brown claims defendants sought to "intentionally interfere with plaintiff's sleeping ability." He claims that as a result of the experimentation in sleep deprivation, he developed a "nerve problem, such as constant shaking of the head and hands, agitation, lack of concentration and easily irritated." (Id. at ¶ 35.)

Following a telephonic scheduling conference held April 19, 2007, the Court granted defendants the opportunity to file a second motion for summary judgment addressing the merits of these remaining claims. (Dkt. Entry 91). Presently before the Court, fully briefed by the parties, is Defendants' Second Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. Entry 92) asserting that Brown's SMU conditions satisfied the Eighth Amendment requirement of "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities" in accordance with Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)(citing Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)). Having carefully reviewed the parties' submissions and the contentions proffered during oral argument heard on July 27, 2007, I have concluded that summary judgment should be granted in favor of defendants on both remaining Eighth Amendment claims.*fn2

II. Statement of Facts

A. Nutritionally Inadequate Diet Claims

Daily meals for Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") inmates are planned and prepared to meet minimum dietary standards. The DOC has a Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter Master Menu, with four week cyclical menus. The Master Menu is approved for nutritional content and caloric value and adheres to the Recommended Dietary Allowances and Dietary Intakes for males and females as identified by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council. The standard diet, and the alternate protein sources offered in lieu of meat entrees, are reviewed and approved by a Dietitian registered with the Commission on Registration of the American Dietetic Association. (Dkt. Entry 92-3, Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts ("DSF") at ¶¶ 1-9; Dkt. Entry 93-2, Gordon Decl. at ¶¶ 1- 5 and ¶ 10.)

Each Master Menu includes a choice of a meat entree, or an alternate protein entree, to be served at the dinner and supper meals for inmates who for personal, medical or religious reasons do not eat meat. (Dkt. Entry 92-3, DSF at ¶ 6; Dkt. Entry 93-2, Gordon Decl. at ¶ 5.) Except for those inmates who require "special" diets,*fn3 all prisoners in a particular prison receive meals prepared from the same Master Menu. (Dkt. Entry 92-3, DSF at ¶ 8; Dkt. Entry 93-2, Gordon Decl. at ¶ 6.) Except for those inmates who receive "special" diets, the portion size of meals served to prisoners in the SMU are the same as those served to prisoners confined in other housing units within the prison. (Dkt. Entry 92-3, DSF at ¶ 9; Dkt. Entry 93-2, Gordon Decl. at ¶ 8.) The size of a meal that includes the alternate protein source in lieu of the meat entree is the same for inmates fed throughout the institution, regardless of their housing assignment. (Dkt. Entry 92-3, DSF at ¶ 9; Dkt. Entry 93-2, Gordon Decl. at ¶ 9.)

All meals are prepared by staff in the kitchen at SCI-Camp Hill. (Dkt. Entry 98-3, Palakovich Decl. at ¶ 6.) Meals provided to inmates in general population are served by prisoners employed in the kitchen under the supervision of DOC employees. (Id. at ¶ 8.) SMU inmates receive their meals in their cell. (See, DOC Policies, DC-ADM 610, Food Service Policy.) Facility Superintendents, Psychologists and Unit Managers have no direct involvement in the creation of the Master Menus or the delivery of the meals. (Dkt. Entry 92-3, DSF at ¶ 10; Dkt. Entry 93-2, Gordon Decl. at ¶ 3.)

Brown resided in SCI-Camp Hill's SMU between late May 2001 and early February 2002. (Dkt. Entry 1, Complaint at ¶ 38 and Dkt. Entry 96, Plaintiff's Affidavit at ¶ 1.) Prisoners at SCI-Camp Hill who do not eat meat for religious or medical reasons may request an alternate protein source as a substitute for the meat entree. (Dkt. Entry 98-3, Palakovich Decl. at ¶ 9; Dkt. Entry 97, Dawkins Decl. at ¶ 3.) The option of requesting an alternate protein source as a substitute for pork was available to Brown while confined in SCI-Camp Hill's SMU. (Dkt. Entry 98-3, Palakovich Decl. at ¶ 10; Dkt. Entry 98-4, Harris Decl., Exh. 1.)

In December 2001, Brown filed a grievance charging Defendants Dragovich, Palakovich, Steigerwalt, Benning and Harris with limiting food portions for SMU inmates as a means of punishment and as a behavior modification tool. (Dkt. Entry 98-4, Harris Decl., Exh. 1.) Brown claimed that the food portions served SMU inmates did not meet the caloric requirements set by law, especially when pork was served. (Id.) Brown complained that even though he ate all meat except pork,*fn4 he was "forced" to take an "alternative meal" as the "non-pork trays consist of no protein and less food portion." (Id.) Defendant Harris denied food was used as punishment in the SMU. He also denied that Brown was being served less food than inmates in general population. (Harris Decl. at Exh. 2.) Brown was advised that inmates electing a "no pork" tray receive the regular meal, except that the pork is removed and no meat substitution is provided. As a result, inmates selecting a "no pork" tray would receive less food than others who had made a different selection when pork is served.*fn5 (Harris Decl. at ¶ 6.) Harris advised Brown that if he wished to have a protein substitute when pork was served, he would have to request an alternative protein tray and his request would be honored. (Id. at ¶ 7.)

Brown acknowledges the availability of pork trays, alternative trays, and non-pork trays to SMU inmates. (Dkt. Entry 96, Appeal to Superintendent of Grievance No. 9412, pp. 12 - 13.) Brown admits to electing the "non pork tray over the alternative [tray] because [he] eat[s] meat." (Id. at p. 13.) He is aware that inmates electing non-pork ...

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