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Banegas v. Hampton

April 22, 2009

MARIO BANEGAS, PLAINTIFF
v.
JOHN HAMPTON ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stengel, J.

MEMORANDUM

Mario Banegas, an inmate incarcerated at the Chester County Prison located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, was physically beaten in his cell by an inmate who was allowed in by two of the prison's corrections officers. These officers made no attempt to stop the assailant or otherwise aid Mr. Banegas and were charged with crimes for their actions.

Banegas initiated this Section 1983 action*fn1 against his assailant, the corrections officers, Mr. D. Edward McFadden (Warden of Chester County Prison), the Chester County Prison Board, and the County of Chester. Warden McFadden, the Prison Board, and the County are named in only one count and have filed the instant motion to dismiss (Document #5). Upon consideration of the parties' memoranda, I will grant the motion in part and deny it in part.

I. Background

Mario Banegas is an inmate at Chester County Prison. (Compl. ¶ 24.) He was housed in the facility's Restricted Housing Unit. (Id. ¶ 25.) John Hampton and Charles Goodman were corrections officers at the prison. (Id. ¶¶ 7--8.) Mr. D. Edward McFadden is the prison's warden. (Id. ¶ 6.) Mr. Stephon Gilchrist is an inmate who was housed at the Chester Country Prison during the relevant time; he has since been relocated to another facility. (Id. ¶ 9.) Banegas and Gilchrist were both in the Restricted Housing Unit but housed in separate cells. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 28.)

At some prior time, Mr. Banegas had made statements criticizing Islam to Mr. Gilchrist who is a Muslim. (Id. ¶ 29.) Officers Hampton and Goodman knew that Mr. Banegas had made such statements and conspired with Gilchrist to attack Banegas. (Id. ¶ 30.)

On March 18, 2007, Hampton, Goodman, and Gilchrist put their plan into action. The officers asked a colleague to open the door to Mr. Banegas' cell. (Id. ¶ 30.) The officers then allowed Gilchrist to enter and attack Banegas. (Id. ¶ 31.) They made no attempt to restrain Gilchrist or otherwise protect Banegas. (Id.) Banegas lost consciousness and suffered a broken rib. (Id. ¶ 35.) He incurred approximately $3500 in medical costs. (Id. ¶ 38.)

On June 8, 2007, Officers Hampton and Goodman were criminally charged for their role in the attack and for making unsworn falsifications to investigating authorities.*fn2

(Id. ¶¶ 40--41.) On November 26, 2007, both officers pleaded guilty. (Id. ¶¶ 42--43.)

Mr. Banegas filed this complaint naming Officers Hampton and Goodman, Mr. Gilchrist, Warden McFadden, the Prison Board, and the County as defendants. Warden McFadden, the Prison Board, and the County are named in only one cause of action. That count alleges that the defendants violated Banegas' Eighth Amendment rights by failing to properly train and supervise the officers assigned to the Restricted Housing Unit. The count also alleges that the defendants violated Banegas' Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from a danger they had created. (Id. ¶ 61.)

More specifically, the complaint identifies the following shortfalls:

a. Fail[ure] to adopt, maintain and enforce appropriate security classification/custody, housing procedures, policies and training;

b. Fail[ure] to adopt, maintain and enforce appropriate and immediately effective protective custody procedures and policies to conduct appropriately related training;

c. Fail[ure] to adopt, maintain and enforce appropriate and immediate inmate separation procedures and policies and to conduct appropriately related training;

d. Fail[ure] to maintain adequate staff to properly supervise the prison to prevent, respond to and stop assaults against prisoners, particularly in the Restricted Housing Unit where Banegas was housed;

e. Fail[ure] to ensure that all areas of the Restrict[ed] Housing Unit have cameras that are fully functioning and carefully monitored at all times by correctional supervisors and, in particular, supervisors in the "bubble" who can see exactly what is going on in all areas of the block over which he, she or they have power to open cell doors;

f. Fail[ure] to ensure that correctional supervisors in the Restricted Housing Unit have access to sufficient information about inmates housed on the block, including but not limited to knowledge of the inmates' program codes, criminal history and mental health problems, if ...


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