The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Fischer
For the reasons that follow, Defendants‟ motion to dismiss (Docket No. 84) will be granted in part and denied in part. Additionally, Plaintiffs‟ claims concerning the sanitary conditions of the food trays provided to inmates in the RHU will be dismissed with prejudice, sua sponte, under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Furthermore, Plaintiff Riley‟s claims arising from his administrative confinement will be dismissed as frivolous, and his allegations concerning the adequacy of his diet while in the RHU will be stricken from the amended complaint.
I.Relevant Factual and Procedural History
Reginald Blount ("Blount") currently is an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Somerset, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Somerset"). Nathan Riley ("Riley") currently is an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Greene"). Plaintiffs bring this cause of action pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, et seq., alleging violations of their rights under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States by a host of Defendants. Am. Compl. (Docket No. 76 at 1 -- 3). Plaintiffs also seek relief under Article I, § 26 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, as well as Pennsylvania state law. Id. at 3. This suit commenced on May 20, 2010, when this Court received Blount‟s motion to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP").*fn1 (Docket No. 1). Blount was granted leave to proceed IFP on May 21, 2010 (Docket No. 3). Riley was granted leave to proceed IFP on June 1, 2010. The initial complaint was received on June 8, 2010. (Docket No. 10).
Plaintiffs moved for leave to file an amended complaint on September 24, 2010, in order to add claims regarding the allegedly unsanitary conditions of the food trays provided to inmates in the RHU. (Docket No. 53). Plaintiffs were granted leave to do so by text order on October 1, 2010. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on December 13, 2010, containing these new claims, as well as additional claims that they were not granted leave to add. (Docket No. 76). On that same day, Plaintiffs also filed a motion for class certification (Docket No. 75). Defendants have moved to dismiss the amended complaint (Docket No. 84). Plaintiffs have responded thereto. (Docket Nos. 92 -- 93, 95). This issue is ripe for disposition.
A. Blount‟s Administrative Confinement
Blount alleges that, on December 4, 2008, he was transferred to SCI-Greene, and immediately placed in the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU"). (Docket No. 76 ¶¶ 3 -- 4). Blount was given a so-called "other report" on that date, which indicated that he was in danger from some person or persons at SCI-Greene, and could not be protected by measures other than placement in administrative segregation. Id. ¶¶ 6 -- 7. Blount alleges that this report was typed prior to his arrival at SCI-Greene, and "was prepared absent any input or interview from [him]" concerning the issue. Id. ¶ 7.
Blount was brought before members of the prison‟s Program Review Committee ("PRC") on or about December 9, 2008. The PRC panel refused to provide any further explanation as to who posed a danger to Blount, or why this individual or individuals were a danger to him. Id. ¶ 9. Blount alleges that he was afforded an opportunity at that time to relay his concerns about the vagueness of the charges in the other report, as well as the fact that he was not shown any evidence of danger. Id. ¶ 10. However, Blount‟s hearing ended without further clarification. Id. Blount alleges that this review by the PRC panel was perfunctory, and violated his right to due process. Id. ¶¶ 11 -- 12. Blount appealed the decision to place him in the RHU to Defendant Folino, but the panel‟s decision was affirmed. Id. ¶ 13.
Blount alleges that he received similar PRC panel reviews of his confinement to the RHU roughly every 90 days. Id. ¶¶ 15. These panels provided him with very brief "ambiguous and undefinitive [sic] written rationale[s]" for his continued administrative confinement. Id. ¶ 16. He was not allowed "to bring to or present the PRC with any written version or to call any witnesse(s) [sic] to rebut any contention for the continued RHU placement."*fn2 Id. ¶ 18. He also alleges that these hearings were not stenographically recorded, and a complete record of these proceedings is unavailable. Id. ¶ 18. Blount does not allege that he was unable to contest his administrative confinement verbally at these hearings.
Blount avers that, as a consequence of his administrative custody, he has been unable to participate in programs or employment necessary to lower his security level or to receive promotional transfers. Id. ¶ 20. He also avers, without elaboration, that his administrative confinement is a punishment for unnamed past infractions "for which the sanction has already been fulfilled." Id. ¶ 20. He alleges that Defendant Beard has full knowledge of the PRC‟s actions. Id. ¶ 23.
Next, Blount alleges that Defendants Turets, Lindley, Workman, and Walker, as part of his unit management team, violated his due process rights by recommending that he remain in the RHU without providing him notice, or an opportunity to object to the recommendation. Id.
¶ 24. Finally, he asserts, generally, that his administrative confinement is the result of retaliation on the part of the Defendants for his filing of unnamed grievances and complaints against them. Id. ¶ 25. Blount claims that the above acts or omissions violated his rights under the Due Process Clause to the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as Article I, § 26 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, 37 Pa.Code § 93.11(b),*fn3 and 2 Pa.C.S.A § 504. Id. ¶¶ 81 -- 87, 89. Plaintiff also alleges that his placement in the RHU was a retaliatory action in violation of the First Amendment. Id. ¶ 88.
Next, Blount claims that Defendant Graves deliberately broke off the handle of Blount‟s footlocker on the date that he was transferred to SCI-Greene. Id. ¶ 29. Blount avers that he grieved this incident; however, his grievance was denied at the initial level, and the denial was affirmed on appeal by Defendants Folino and Varner. Id. ¶¶ 31 -- 33. Blount alleges that these acts or omission were violations of his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment, and constituted the state tort of "negligent [sic]." Id. ¶¶ 90 -- 92.
Blount alleges, without elaboration, that Defendant Graves filed a false misconduct report against him in retaliation for inquiring why he allegedly broke Blount‟s footlocker. Id. ¶ 34. Blount claims that this allegedly retaliatory act violated his rights under the First Amendment.
Finally, Blount alleges that his meals in the RHU have been served on unsanitary trays. These trays "are contaminated with food leftover from the previous meal, ink and magic marker writing on the tray lids and food serving sections where the food is placed, and soap residue." Id. ¶ 35. Blount generally alleges that this creates a risk to inmates‟ health, but notably does not indicate that he has suffered any ill effects from eating off of the allegedly unsanitary trays. Id.
¶¶ 36 -- 37. Plaintiff grieved this issue to Defendant Dittsworth, asking that Styrofoam inserts be provided inside the trays. Id. ¶ ¶ 37 -- 38. Defendant Dittsworth denied the grievance at the initial level. Id. ¶ 38. Blount appealed to Defendant Folino, who affirmed, and again to Defendant Varner. Id. ¶¶ 39 -- 40. Defendant Williams answered in Defendant Varner‟s place, and denied the appeal. Id. ¶ 41.
Riley makes similar assertions regarding the sanitary conditions of the food trays. Id.
¶ 75. However, his allegations include assertions that he has experienced "food poisoning type symptoms of stomach pain, cramps, and diarrhea." Id. Curiously, he alleges that he also received Fiber-Lax tablets for diarrhea. Id. Riley alleges that Defendants DeCarlo and Dittsworth were aware of these conditions but have done nothing to rectify them, and generally asserts liability against Defendants Rogers, Folino, and Varner as well. Id. ¶¶ 77, 79.
Plaintiffs claim that these alleged acts or omissions violated their rights under the Eighth Amendment, as well as 37 Pa. Code § 95.230(2) and (5).*fn4 Id. p 94 -- 96.
E. Riley‟s Administrative Confinement
Riley makes allegations regarding his administrative confinement that are similar to those made by Blount. Riley alleges that he arrived at SCI-Greene on May 15, 2007, was immediately placed in the RHU, and issued a pre-typed other report indicating that some person or persons at the institution posed a danger to him and he could not be protected through alternate means. Id.
¶¶ 45 -- 50. On May 17, 2007, he appeared at a short hearing before a PRC panel, who continued his administrative confinement over Riley‟s objections. Id. ¶¶ 52 -- 53. Riley appealed this decision to Defendant Folino and then to Defendant Mark, who both affirmed the panel‟s decision. Id. ¶¶ 54 -- 55. Riley avers that he appeared at periodic reviews before PRC panels approximately once every 90 days, and contested his detention in the RHU. Id. ¶ 57, 59, 62. He characterizes these reviews as "perfunctory" and characterizes the written rationales for his continued administrative confinement as inadequate to satisfy his right to due process. Id.
¶¶ 57 -- 58. He also alleges that Defendants Cristini, Nickolas, Cowan, Grainey, Workman, and Walker, as members of his unit management team, further denied his due process rights by recommending Riley‟s continued administrative segregation without providing notice and opportunity to object. Id. ¶ 64. Finally, Riley asserts that his continued confinement in administrative segregation is a result of Defendants‟ retaliation against him for filing lawsuits and various, unnamed grievances against officials within the Department of Corrections ("DOC"). Id. ¶ 65.
F. Riley‟s Inadequate Diet in the RHU
Riley alleges, as part of his December 13, 2010, amendments to the complaint, that he has been served a nutritionally inadequate diet during his confinement to the RHU. Id. ¶ 66. Specifically, he complains that he has been given one-half to two-thirds the number of calories mandated for inmates by the DOC, and, as a result, has lost approximately 30 pounds. Id.
¶¶ 66 -- 67. Riley states that, as a result, he has experienced "constant hunger, weakness, fatigue, and physically drain [sic]." Id. ¶ 70. He alleges that his allegedly inadequate diet is a result of a long-standing practice among food service staff members to reduce the amount of food that is given to inmates housed in the RHU, which he calls "shaking the spoon." Id. ¶¶ 69 -- 70. Riley asserts that Defendant DeCarlo knew about this practice, but did nothing to stop it. Id. ¶ 71. He also alleges, generally and without elaboration, that Defendants Folino and Varner failed to rectify the alleged deficiency in his diet. Id. ¶ 73. Riley further asserts that Defendant DeCarlo‟s acts or omissions with respect to this issue were negligent, and violated state law. Id. ¶ 74.
Riley claims that the above alleged acts or omissions constitute violations of the Eighth Amendment‟s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, as well as 37 Pa. Code § 95.230(1). Id. ¶¶ 99 -- 100.
Dismissal is appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if, reading the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accepting all factual allegations as true, no relief could be granted under any "reasonable reading of the complaint." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). Under this standard, a court must accept as true all allegations of the complaint, and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). However, a court need not accept inferences drawn by a plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employees‟ Ret. Sys. v. Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004). Nor must a court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Furthermore, it is not proper for a court to assume that "the [plaintiff] ...