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Shawn T. Jones v. Jeffery A. Beard

August 15, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Juan R. Sanchez, J.


Plaintiff Shawn T. Jones, a former inmate in the Berks County Jail System (BCJS), sues former Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard, Berks County Jail Warden George Wagner, and Corrections Officer Cunningham (the Individual Defendants) for violating his constitutional rights. Jones also sues the Individual Defendants and Oasis Management, Inc. for violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), 21 U.S.C. § 331, by selling items marked "Not labeled for individual retail sale" in the BCJS commissary. This Court has reviewed Jones's Amended Complaint pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), and will dismiss it with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.


On April 30, 2010, Jones began serving his prison sentence at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Camp Hill. On August 12, 2010, Jones was transferred from SCI Camp Hill to the BCJS. Jones was informed he would remain in the BCJS until February 2011, because of overcrowding at SCI Camp Hill, after which he would return to the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Upon his arrival at the BCJS, Jones underwent entry processing during which he was strip-searched, finger-scanned, photographed, and issued a BCJS identification card with a Berks County Prison (BCP) number and a Berks County commitment number. Jones objected to receiving a BCP identification number, asserting this process improperly identified him as someone who previously committed a crime in Berks County. Jones filed at least two grievances with the jail addressing this issue and the BCJS responded by explaining that its "records will reflect that you were housed here. This does not mean you committed a crime in this county." Am. Compl. 10. Jones also complained about the finger-scanning process during the BCJS intake, and a BCJS staff member informed Jones he was finger-scanned "for identification purposes." Id.

Jones was also screened by BCJS medical staff upon his arrival. Jones suffers from asthma and normally keeps a medicated inhaler on his person which he uses twice daily to control his asthma. Upon Jones's arrival at the jail, the staff confiscated the inhaler and told Jones it would be returned after the medical staff completed his screening. However, members of the medical staff told Jones he needed approval to keep the inhaler on his person and did not immediately return it. Later the same day, Jones submitted a sick call slip complaining of shortness of breath and his inhaler was returned to him the following night. He was thereafter permitted to keep the inhaler with him. Jones complains that while he was without his inhaler, the Individual Defendants "gambled with [his] life" because he was forced to wait for one of the nurses' three daily rounds to obtain medication or to request a visit to the medical unit to use the nebulizer located there. Am. Compl. 6.

From August 12, 2010, to August 18, 2010, BCJS housed Jones in quarantine.*fn2 While in quarantine, Jones was required to stay in his cell at all times, and was not permitted to use the phone or shower for several days.

On August 21, 2010, Corrections Officer Cunningham entered Jones's cell and asked Jones about some fruit and bread on a desk there. After Jones identified the food as his, Cunningham explained that BCJS prohibits inmates from having food in their cells unless the items were purchased through the BCJS commissary. Jones responded that he was unaware of this rule because he was familiar only with the rules of SCI Camp Hill, from which he had been transferred. This response angered Cunningham, who told Jones that rules he learned at other correctional institutions did not apply at BCJS and while he was at BCJS, he must abide by its rules. Cunningham then ordered Jones to throw the food away. Jones obeyed, but was only able to pick up one item at a time due to a hand injury. This slow pace further angered Cunningham, who began yelling at Jones. Jones felt frightened and physically threatened by Cunningham's size and presence in his cell and asked the officer to calm down. After Cunningham told Jones to shut up, Jones asked Cunningham not to speak to him in that tone and manner, and Cunningham threatened to send Jones to isolation for disobeying a direct order to be quiet. The exchange continued for some time in this manner, ending when Cunningham wrote Jones a citation for misconduct.

Later that evening, Jones was sent to "the hole," or administrative segregation, where he was forced to occupy the top bunk. Climbing onto the top bunk was a struggle for Jones because of his injured hand.*fn3 While Jones was in administrative segregation, his mattress was taken from his cell between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m pursuant to BCJS policy. For his meals, Jones was served "food loaf," a specially formulated meal that is nutritionally equivalent to the food served other inmates. Jones filed a grievance with the jail contesting these conditions, and filed an emergency grievance seeking protection from Cunningham.

After several days of eating food loaf, Jones began to suffer from constipation and headaches. Jones submitted a sick call slip and was examined by a nurse who gave him a laxative. When Jones used the bathroom, he discovered blood in his stool, so he filed another sick call slip and informed the nurse of his new symptom. The nurse told Jones he would be taken to the medical unit the following day. Once there, he was asked to submit a stool sample and was told his symptoms were normal side effects of eating food loaf.

After Jones spent several days in administrative segregation, Lieutenant Castro conducted a hearing on Jones's misconduct charges from the August 21, 2010, incident with Cunningham at which Jones testified. The next day, Castro dropped the charges of creating a disturbance and abusiveness from the misconduct report.*fn4 Jones pled guilty to the remaining charges ( possession of contraband and disobeying an order) and spent ten additional days in administrative segregation as punishment.

On September 12 and 24, 2010, and December 13, 2010, Jones filed grievances with the jail complaining that the BCJS commissary was violating the FDCA by selling items marked "Not labeled for individual retail sale." Id. at 27. Jones believes Defendant Oasis Management, Inc. purchased various items at wholesale prices, ignored the labels prohibiting individual retail sale, repackaged the items, and sold them to prisoners at prices designed to maximize profits. Jones asserts that Oasis has refused to comply with product distribution laws in distributing products to Jones and other inmates because they are "sentenced imprisoned citizen[s]." Id. at 28. He further complains that he has no option but to purchase these mislabeled items from the commissary because Oasis is the only vendor that deals with the BCJS. The BCJS dismissed Jones's grievances about the mislabeled items.

According to the Amended Complaint, in October 2010 Jones became eligible for reclassification to a pre-release program, which would have enabled him to serve the remainder of his sentence in a halfway house. Jones believes he was not able to be re-classified because he was housed at BCJS instead of at a state facility and further objects that he will be housed at BCJS much longer than initially forecast.*fn5

On January 14, 2011, Jones filed his Amended Complaint, bringing claims for violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and also alleging violations of the FDCA. Jones asserts Beard and Wagner violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and violated 42 Pa. C.S. § 9762 by requiring him to serve his state sentence in a county jail. Jones alleges Defendants violated his Fifth, Fourteenth, and Sixth Amendment rights by strip-searching him, finger-scanning him, and assigning him a BCP number. Jones asserts the confiscation of his inhaler violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and further asserts his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by the denial of outdoor exercise time during his six days in quarantine. Jones also alleges he was denied due process as a result of his incarceration at BCJS because he was unable to be reclassified and was therefore denied the opportunity to participate in pre-release programs involving less restrictive confinement, such as placement in a halfway house. Jones asserts his Eighth Amendment rights were violated through his detention in solitary confinement when he was served "food loaf," deprived of his mattress during the day, and prevented from ...

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