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Ravanna Spencer v. Jeffrey Beard

March 21, 2011

RAVANNA SPENCER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFFREY BEARD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Carlson

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Ravanna Spencer, an inmate within the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, brought this lawsuit against a number of corrections officials, alleging that these officials subjected him to unlawful excessive force during a cell extraction on May 13, 2006, and thereafter placed him in a prison cell without clothing, food, water, or adequate heat for an extended period of time. Plaintiff's claims alleging that the officers used excessive force were bifurcated from his claims regarding the allegedly unlawful conditions of his confinement, and tried before a jury on May 17 and 18, 2010.*fn1 A jury returned a verdict favor of the corrections defendants on Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment excessive force claims.

Following this trial, the parties engaged in further discovery regarding Mr. Spencer's claims that the conditions of his confinement following his cell extraction in May 2006 violated his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. At the conclusion of this discovery period, Defendants moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's remaining claims, arguing that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to these claims prior to bringing this lawsuit, and that such claims are now barred from being tried in federal court. (Doc. 224.) Additionally, Defendants maintain that Plaintiff's allegations are literally incredible, and that the evidence he relies on in support of his claims -- namely, his own self-serving testimony -- should not be found sufficient to create a dispute of material fact regarding Plaintiff's claims that he was literally kept without food or water for a week or more, or left unclothed in a prison cell below freezing temperatures for weeks, because Plaintiff's claims are defied by the laws of science.

Upon review, we agree with Defendants that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to his claim regarding the conditions of his confinement, and that summary judgment is, therefore, warranted.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In May 2006, Plaintiff Ravenna Spencer was housed in the Special Management Unit (SMU) at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill (SCI-Camp Hill), where he was serving a prison sentence following a conviction for robbery. The record shows that during this time, Spencer had persistently violated a number of prison disciplinary rules, including repeatedly covering the window to his cell door, refusing to comply with various demands and requests of corrections officials, and smearing his own excrement throughout his cell.

Thus, on May 2, 2006, all items were removed from Spencer's cell in the SMU because he had covered his cell door and smeared his feces all over his cell. (Doc. 226, Ex. A, Level 5 Adjustment Record at 3.)*fn2 Only two days later, Spencer again covered his cell door and refused orders to remove the items. (Id.) As a result, corrections officials physically removed Spencer from his cell and placed him cell C1-02. (Id.) Two days later, Spencer once again smeared his own waste on the walls of his cell. (Id.)

One week later, on May 13, 2006, Spencer had once again covered the window to his cell and refused orders to remove the items. (Doc. 226, Ex. B, Extraordinary Occurrence Report at 2.)*fn3 As a result, corrections officials were compelled again to physically extract Spencer from cell C1-02 and move him to cell C1-01. (Id.) Shortly after midnight on the next morning, in another example of this persistent refusal to comply with prison rules orders from corrections officers, Spencer once again covered the window to his cell door with toilet paper and refused orders to remove it. (Doc. 226, Ex. C, May 14, 2006 Extraordinary Incident Report at 2.)*fn4 Accordingly, at 12:14 a.m. on May 14, 2006, Spencer was once again physically removed from his cell and placed in cell C1-13. (Id.)

On June 6, 2006, Spencer utilized the grievance procedure made available to inmates by filing Grievance Number 154613, which concerned his May 13, 2006, cell extraction. (Doc. 226, Ex. H, Declaration of Dorina Varner, Attach. B.)

In this grievance, Spencer claimed:

On 5-13-06 Officers Barnes, Anderson, Dixon, Warner, Beaver, and maybe one other officer extracted my cell I was house in G-C1-02. Officers came in there was a little struggle and then I was handcuffed and escorted to G-C1-1 where I was laid on a cold metal frame all my clothes were cut off and while I was on the cold frame officer punched me perfusely [sic] in the face and head which left a large lump on my head and scars on my scalp and caused my face and head to hurt severely I was then yanked by the tether through the [illegible]. Note Sgt. Maxwell and Lt.

Proce was the leader of this extraction thus all on camera Nurse Misty was there she refused to give me medical attention I believe they told her not to because she [illegible] I couldn't fill paper work in a stripped cell. (Id.) Ian W. Taggart, the Corrections Superintendent Assistant at SCI-Camp Hill responded to this grievance on June 9, 2006, indicating that Spencer's allegations regarding "alleged excessive force at the hands of the SMU Officers has been forwarded to the Security Office for their investigation." (Id.)

Following an investigation into Spencer's claims, the Security Office responded to Spencer, informing him that the investigation had revealed "no credible evidence that would support your claims." (Id.) To the contrary, the investigation found "that it was [Spencer] was combative with staff and would not cooperate with the cell extraction process." (Id.) The Security Office observed that Spencer had been "involved in multiple use of force incidents with staff since [his] reception into the SMU and [his] continued negative interaction and disruptive behavior with staff has necessitated these use of force incidents . . . ." (Id.) As a result of these findings, the Security Officer considered the grievance resolved, but noted that the investigation would ...


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