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Mitchell v. Dodrill

March 5, 2010

TROY F. MITCHELL, PLAINTIFF
v.
SCOTT DODRILL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rambo

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Troy F. Mitchell ("Mitchell") initiated this Bivens*fn1 -type action on July 29, 2008 with a complaint filed pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (Doc. 1), as amended on February 5, 2009 (Doc. 22). Mitchell makes several complaints about various conditions of Special Management Unit ("SMU") of the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ("USP-Lewisburg"), his former place of confinement. Mitchell names as Defendants several employees of the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") employed at USP-Lewisburg.*fn2 As relief he seeks compensatory and punitive damages.*fn3

Before the court is a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, filed on behalf of Defendants. (Doc. 35.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary judgment will be granted.

I. Background

In support of their motion for summary judgment, Defendants submitted a statement of material facts. (Doc. 38.) Because Mitchell has failed to file an opposing statement of material facts as required by Middle District Local Rule 56.1, the following facts submitted by Defendants are deemed admitted.

The SMU at USP-Lewisburg began accepting inmates in September 2002.

(Doc. 38 ¶ 23.) From September 2002 to the spring of 2009, the SMU was confined to one housing unit and housed approximately eighty (80) inmates. (Id. ¶ 24.) Placement in the SMU is not punitive. (Id. ¶ 25.) Rather, the SMU was implemented to provide additional programming opportunities to inmates who may have been involved in or played a leadership role in a disruptive incident involving some type of gang activity (racial, geographic or otherwise). (Id. ¶ 26.) Other inmates who have a significant disciplinary history and who chronically have not been able to function in general population also may be assigned to the SMU. (Id. ¶ 27.) The SMU provides inmates with a number of self study, individual, and group activities geared toward the development of behavior and values that will allow for them to function successfully in the general population of some BOP institution. (Id. ¶ 28.) The SMU program encompasses a multi-phase approach designed to teach inmates self-discipline, pro-social values, and to facilitate the participant's ability to successfully co-exist with members of other geographical, cultural, and religious backgrounds. (Id. ¶ 29.) The program ordinarily is completed in 18-24 months. (Id.)

In the fall of 2008, the BOP announced plans to change USP-Lewisburg's mission from an ordinary penitentiary to become a "more controlled, restrictive institution that will house inmates who have been difficult to manage in other institutions." (Id. ¶ 30.) As a result, the SMU concept will be maintained institution-wide instead of in only one housing unit. (Id. ¶ 31.) Currently, the SMU is operating in several housing units, and construction is underway on the rest of the institution to enable the change in mission. (Id. ¶¶ 32-33.) In addition, many of the general population inmates assigned to USP-Lewisburg are in the process of being transferred to other BOP institutions to free up space for incoming "SMU program inmates." (Id. ¶ 34.) Finally, as part of the SMU program expansion, the BOP issued Program Statement 5217.01, "Special Management Units," which became effective on November 19, 2008. (Doc. 37-2.)

On October 22, 2007, Mitchell was transferred from the United States Penitentiary in Atwater, California to USP-Lewisburg to participate in the SMU program.*fn4 (Doc. 37-2 at 3, Ex. 1, L. Cunningham Decl.) Mitchell has been designated by the BOP as a Central Inmate Monitoring case ("CIMs"), an inmate who requires special supervision or separation from other inmates.*fn5 (Id. at 5.)

In his amended complaint, Mitchell alleges that when he arrived as USPLewisburg he attempted to refuse participation in the SMU program because he was given an SMU inmate handbook rather than a BOP Program Statement. (Doc. 22 at 8-10.) He asserts that a BOP Program Statement would have provided inmates with the protocols to guide them through the various phases of the program. (Id.) Mitchell also alleges that the conditions of the SMU are inhumane, ranging from rust erosion, poor plumbing, insect and pest infestation, and inadequate ventilation. (Id. at 10-13.)

Mitchell claims that conditions in the SMU worsened when Defendant Passaniti took over as Captain of the SMU in early 2008. (Id. at 13.) According to Mitchell, Defendant Passaniti ordered the confiscation of personal property of SMU inmates without advanced notice on March 10 and 18, 2008. (Id.) On March 20, 2008, Defendant Passaniti ordered a shakedown of the SMU to confiscate more personal property from the inmates. (Id. at 14.) During this shakedown, a physical struggle erupted between SMU inmates and corrections officers. (Id. at 14-15.) As the struggle escalated, "the block exploded into a state of chaos . . . [as] SMU inmates on the 2nd and 3rd ranges began flooding, yelling, breaking sprinklers, lights and banging on the doors and tearing up toilets and sinks." (Id. at 15.) Mitchell claims that when corrections officers arrived at his cell, they did not employ BOP confrontation avoidance procedures prior to entering the cell. (Id.) Rather, corrections officers opened the cell's door slot, gassed the cell with pepper spray, and shot a concussion grenade at Mitchell. (Id. at 15-16.) Mitchell avers that he was able to cover himself with a mattress to avoid a direct hit from the grenade, but it still blew the mattress out of his hands, burning hair off his arm and leg, and causing damage to his hearing. (Id. at 16.)

When corrections officers then entered the cell, they struck him in the nose and slammed him to the ground before dragging him out of the cell. (Id.) Once in the shower area of the SMU, a physician's assistant did not treat his injuries. (Id. at 16-17.)

Mitchell claims that he filed requests for administrative remedies with respect to the claims he raises in his amended complaint. The record submitted by Defendants reflects that Mitchell did file requests for administrative remedy from USP-Lewisburg on various topics and to various levels, including both the Northeast Regional and Central Offices.*fn6 Mitchell's attempts to exhaust the issues raised in the amended complaint are as follows.

On December 4, 2007, Mitchell filed administrative remedy number 474774-F1 at the institutional level (USP-Lewisburg), alleging that he should not have been placed in the SMU program. (Doc. 37-2 at 7.) This request was rejected on that same day for failure to seek informal resolution. (Id.) On December 11, 2007, Mitchell re-filed remedy 474774-F2, again alleging that his placement in the SMU was not warranted. (Id.) Mitchell's grievance was denied on the institutional level on December 18, 2007. (Id.) He appealed this grievance to the Northeast Regional Office on December 26, 2007, which denied the appeal on January 25, 2008. (Id. at 8.) Finally, he filed an appeal with the Central Office on February 4, 2008 by remedy number 474774-A1. (Id. at 9.) The Central Office denied his appeal on March 19, 2008. (Id.)

On January 28, 2008, Mitchell filed administrative remedy number 480445-F1 at the institutional level, grieving his placement in the SMU and complaining about the SMU's conditions. (Id. at 8.) This grievance was rejected on the same day, January 28, 2008. (Id.) In that rejection, Mitchell was advised that his request pertained to two separate issues, and that he must file a separate grievance for each unrelated issue.*fn7 (Id.)

On February 4, 2008, Mitchell filed administrative remedy number 481362-F1 at the institutional level, alleging that he should not have been placed in the SMU, and that the SMU does not have a corresponding BOP Program Statement. (Id. at 9.) That request was denied on February 13, 2008. (Id.) On March 3, 2008, Mitchell appealed that denial to the Northeast Regional Office by remedy number 481362-R1. (Id. at 10.) The Northeast Regional Office denied the appeal on April 1, 2008. (Id.) On April 14, 2008, Mitchell filed remedy number 481362-A1 with the Central Office. (Id. at 11.) The Central Office rejected Mitchell's appeal on April 17, 2008 on procedural grounds, (Id.), and Mitchell re-filed his appeal with the Central Office on May 2, 2008, by remedy number 481362-A2, (Id. at 12). The Central Office denied his appeal on May 2, 2008. (Id.)

On April 7, 2008, Mitchell filed administrative remedy number 488885-R1 with the Northeast Regional Office, complaining that USP-Lewisburg staff executed an improper cell extraction on March 20, 2008. (Id. at 10.) Mitchell claimed he was initially filing the grievance at the regional level because of the sensitivity of the claim. (Id.) The Northeast Regional Office rejected the grievance on April 8, 2008, stating that the claim could in fact first be addressed by the warden. (Id.) As a result, on April 28, 2008, Mitchell filed remedy 488885-F1 at the institutional level, asserting the same claims. (Id. at 11.) That grievance was denied on May 13, 2008. (Id.) Mitchell appealed the denial to the Northeast Regional Office on May 19, 2008 by remedy number 488885-R2. (Id. at 14.) That office denied Mitchell's grievance on June 17, 2008. (Id.) Mitchell filed an appeal with the Central Office on July 2, 2008 by remedy number 488885-A1. (Id. at 18.) The Central Office denied Mitchell's appeal on September 3, 2008. (Id.)

On May 19, 2008, Mitchell filed administrative remedy number 493961-F1 at the institutional level, requesting to purchase a fan for the SMU from the commissary. (Id. at 13.) This request was denied on May 27, 2008. (Id.) Mitchell filed appeal number 493961-R1 with the Northeast Regional Office on June 2, 2008. (Id. at 16.) The appeal was denied on July 2, 2008. (Id.) Mitchell appealed that denial to the Central Office on July 22, 2008, by remedy number 493961-A1, which was denied on September 9, 2008. (Id. at 19.)

On May 22, 2008, Mitchell filed administrative remedy number 494407-F1 at the institutional level, requesting to "make up recreation" when he received less than seven hours per week.*fn8 (Id. at 14.) This request was rejected on the same day for failure to seek informal resolution. (Id.) Mitchell re-filed the request on May 28, 2008, and it was denied by the warden on June 19, 2008. (Id. at 15.) Mitchell filed appeal number 494407-R1 with the Northeast Regional Office on June 27, 2008. (Id. at 18.) The appeal was denied on July 22, 2008. (Id.) Mitchell appealed that denial to the Central Office on August 7, 2008 by remedy number 494407-A1. (Id. at 21.) The Central Office denied his appeal on October 6, 2008.

(Id.)

On May 28, 2008, Mitchell filed administrative remedy number 495024-F1 at the institutional level, requesting that the SMU commissary list be expanded. (Id. at 15.) That request was denied on June 3, 2008. (Id.) Mitchell filed appeal number 495024-R1 with the Northeast Regional Office on June 10, 2008. (Id. at 17.) The appeal was denied on July 9, 2008. (Id.) Mitchell appealed that denial on August 7, 2008 to the Central Office by remedy number 495024-A1. (Id. at 21.) The Central Office denied his appeal on October 15, 2008. (Id.)

On June 2, 2008, Mitchell filed administrative remedy number 495571-F1 at the institutional level, alleging that a counselor was not available to give him forms.*fn9 (Id. at 16.) That request was denied on June 12, 2008. (Id.) Mitchell filed appeal number 495571-R1 with the Northeast Regional Office on June 17, 2008. (Id. at 17.) The appeal was denied on July 15, 2008. (Id.) Mitchell appealed that denial on July 28, 2008, by remedy number 495571-A1, and received an informational response from the Central Office on October 14, 2008. (Id. at 20.)

On July 10, 2008, Mitchell filed administrative remedy number 500225-F1 at the institutional level, requesting a single cell in the SMU. (Id. at 19.) That request was denied on July 16, 2008. (Id.) Mitchell filed appeal number 500225-R1 with the Northeast Regional Office on July 28, 2008. (Id. at 20.) That appeal was denied on August 27, 2008. (Id.) Mitchell appealed that denial on September 18, 2008 to the Central Office by remedy number 500225-A1. (Id. at 22.) The Central Office denied his appeal on November 26, 2008. (Id.)

On July 29, 2008, Mitchell filed a complaint which was docketed at 1:08-cv-01414. (Doc. 1.) In that complaint, Mitchell alleged that prison officials subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment while he was housed in the SMU. (Id.) Specifically, he challenged his placement in the SMU and the conditions in the SMU. (Id.) Further, he claimed that he sustained a serious injury to his hearing when prison officials needlessly shot him with a concussion grenade during a riot in the SMU in March of 2008. (Id.) By order dated September 3, 2008, the court directed service of the complaint upon the Defendants named therein. (Doc. 9.)

On January 7, 2009, Mitchell filed another complaint which was docketed at Mitchell v. Warden Bledsoe, et al., 1:09-cv-00020 (Doc. 1). In that complaint, Mitchell set forth the same allegations relating to his time spent in the SMU. As a result, by memorandum and order dated January 23, 2009, the court directed the Clerk of Court to consolidate Mitchell v. Warden Bledsoe, et al., civil no. 1:09-cv-00020, into Mitchell v. Scott Dodrill, et al., civil no. 1:08-cv-01414, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(a). (Doc. 21.) The court further directed the Clerk of Court to close Mitchell v. Warden Bledsoe, et al., civil no. 1:09-cv-00020, and provided Mitchell with thirty (30) days to file an amended complaint. (Id.)

Mitchell filed his amended complaint on February 5, 2009. (Doc. 22.) Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, on June 26, 2009. (Doc. 35.) Responsive and reply ...


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