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Bracey v. Harlow

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 21, 2013

COREY BRACEY, Plaintiff,
v.
Superintendent HARLOW; Deputy HALL; Deputy BRYANT; Major GILLMORE; Major SUTTER; Captain WHITE; Captain FRONZ; Captain MORROW; Lieutenant CALDWELL; LIEUTENANT VINCENT; LIEUTENANT DEAL; Sergeant WOLFE; Correction Officer STAFFORD; WILLIAM WOODS; E. BROWNLEE, GR-9693; Correction Officer HARMON; Lieutenant IRWIN; and Sergeant RUFF, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION Re: ECF Nos. 142, 170.

MAUREEN P. KELLY, Magistrate Judge.

I. RECOMMENDATION

Corey Bracey ("Plaintiff") is a prisoner in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"). Plaintiff has filed a civil rights action against a number of officers employed at State Correctional Institution at Albion ("SCI - Albion"), where he had been incarcerated prior to at least two transfers within the DOC system (collectively, the "DOC Defendants"). Plaintiff has also named Inmate E. Brownlee as a Defendant.

Plaintiff claims that while he was housed in the Restrictive Housing Unit ("RHU") at SCI-Albion, the DOC Defendants failed to follow security procedures regarding the use of handcuffs and metal detectors, escorting prisoners, guard tenure in RHU units, pat down searches, and the hiring and supervising of inmate "tier workers."[1] Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' failure to adhere to DOC security procedures created an environment within the RHU where prisoner assaults frequently occurred, as evidenced by the fact that Plaintiff was assaulted by Defendant Inmate E. Brownlee ("Brownlee") in the RHU exercise yard at SCI - Albion on September 14, 2010, and assaulted again by another inmate on February 2, 2011. Plaintiff alleges that certain DOC Defendants retaliated against him after he filed grievances concerning the assaults, and that other DOC Defendants conspired to violate his civil rights by destroying evidence relevant to his claims. Plaintiff also alleges a state law claim for assault against fellow Inmate Brownlee.

Presently pending before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff [ECF No. 142] and by the DOC Defendants [ECF No. 170], as well as the parties' briefs and materials filed in support and opposition thereto. After careful review of the extensive record filed in this action, it is respectfully recommended that Plaintiff's Partial-Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 142] be denied and that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 170] be granted.

II. REPORT

A. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff commenced this action with the filing of a complaint. A motion to proceed in forma pauperis was initially denied for failure to include the appropriate financial documentation, but was granted upon Plaintiff's compliance with statutory requirements. [ECF Nos. 1, 5, 7]. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, which were denied as moot, given that Plaintiff was transferred to a different DOC facility and was no longer exposed to the allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement sustained at SCI - Albion. [ECF Nos. 3, 45].

Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint [ECF No. 16], setting forth alleged violations of Plaintiff's rights under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as state law tort claims for assault and battery and medical malpractice. By Orders dated March 8, 2012, and March 9, 2012, Plaintiff's claims for medical malpractice as well as certain Eighth Amendment claims arising out of medication distribution and frequency of counseling visits were dismissed. [ECF Nos. 76, 78]. After the filing of an Answer, Plaintiff filed a second Amended Complaint [ECF No. 82] without leave of Court. Upon objection, the second Amended Complaint was stricken with the exception of permitting the caption to be amended to correctly identify defendant Inmate Brownlee. [ECF No. 86]. Plaintiff's remaining claims, as set forth in the operative Amended Complaint [ECF No. 16]. are summarized as follows.

1. Failure to Protect.

a. September 14, 2010 Assault - Inmate Brownlee assaulted Plaintiff in the RHU exercise cage because the Defendants failed to follow regulations and policy. Specifically:
1. The hiring of Disciplinary Custody (DC) inmates as block janitors in violation of the 6.5.1 Procedures Manual. Plaintiff's assailant, Inmate Brownlee, was a DC inmate working as a block worker;
2. Not searching RHU cells every thirty (30) days in contravention of the 6.5.1 Procedures Manual;
3. Having "disqualified" staff working the RHU, that is, Corrections Officers working on the RHU for more than the two year tours noted in the 6.5.1 Procedures Manual;
4. Supervisory Defendants condoned a practice of not pat-searching inmates after completing strip searches and of not using metal detectors on inmates entering the RHU exercise cages;
5. Corrections Officers did not escort inmates with the proper number of guards in violation of 6.5.1; and
6. Corrections Officers did not sign off on their post orders pursuant to Procedures Manual 6.3.1.
b. February 2, 2011 Assault - Plaintiff was assaulted in the RHU exercise yards for a second time by another inmate because:
1. Plaintiff was supposed to be placed into the yard alone but he was not; and
2. The inmate who assaulted Plaintiff was able to "slip" one of his hands out of his cuffs.
2. Retaliation - in retaliation for filing grievances and this lawsuit, the Defendants "conspired" against Plaintiff by:
a. Issuing false misconduct reports;
b. Denying Plaintiff food, showers, and other privileges;
c. Imposing "passive aggressive assaults, " that is squeezing his arm tightly, upon him during escorts; and,
d. Defendant Harmon engaging in verbal harassment by calling Plaintiff a snitch and saying things like "put it in your lawsuit asshole."
3. Civil Conspiracy - Plaintiff claims that the Defendants conspired to cover-up and destroy evidence of the assaults and to retaliate for complaining about the assaults.

Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages for each of his claims, as well as declaratory relief in the form of a declaration that his constitutional rights have been violated. Plaintiff also seeks an award of nominal damages.

B. FACTS

1. September 14, 2010 Assault

The evidence submitted to the Court by Plaintiff in support of his claims and in opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment establishes that on September 14, 2010, Inmate Brownlee was strip-searched by Defendant Stafford prior to being escorted to an RHU exercise yard. It is undisputed that Defendant Stafford completed the strip search, but did not observe Brownlee conceal a metal homemade knife or "shank" in the sleeve of his prison uniform while redressing to leave his cell. The evidence provided by Plaintiff reveals that Defendant Stafford was newly assigned to the RHU, but had not yet completed his training. Defendant Stafford did not know he was to use a hand-held metal detector and conduct a pat down search to recheck Brownlee for contraband after he ...


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