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Banks v. Collins

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

September 26, 2014

GARY BANKS, Plaintiff
v.
SUPERINTENDENT COLLINS, ET AL., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

Richard P. Conaboy United States District Judge

Background

Gary Banks, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Frackville, Pennsylvania (SCI-Frackville) initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. An Amended Complaint (Doc. 25) was previously filed.

By Memorandum and Order dated March 26, 2013, Defendant Ingrid Li, M.D.’s motion to dismiss was granted. The other named Defendants are the following SCI-Frackville officials:

Superintendent Collins; Deputy Superintendents Kovalchi, Lorgrady; Lieutenants Popson, Marichi, R. Manbeck; Sergeants Moss, Bresnick, Walker; as well as Correctional Officers McCormick and Trotman (hereinafter Corrections Defendants).

A March 28, 2013 Memorandum and Order partially granted a motion to dismiss filed by the Corrections Defendants. See Doc. 49. Specifically, dismissal was granted in favor of Corrections Defendants Collins, Kovalchi, Lorgrady, Manbeck, Moss, Bresnick, Walker, McCormick and Trotmin with respect to the excessive force claim. Dismissal was also granted with respect to the due process claims regarding Bank’s transfers to the Psychiatric Observation Cell (POC) and Restricted Housing Unit (RHU). The claims against Defendants Popson and Marichi regarding the use of the restraint chair and Plaintiff’s contentions that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement while housed in the POC were allowed to proceed.

Banks’ action provides a prime example of the difficulties faced by prison officials with respect to the supervision of prisoners with mental health issues. Clearly, the handling of the behavior problems of mentally ill inmates is a significant ongoing challenge facing state and federal correctional officials. In the present matter, Banks describes himself as having mental health problems which were recognized and identified by SCI-Frackville officials. See Doc.25, ¶ 43. As a result, while confined at SCI-Frackville Banks was housed at various times in either the Secured Special Needs Unit (SSNU), the RHU, or the POC.

It is alleged that on August 3, 2010 Lieutenant Marichi told Sergeant Bresnick to move Plaintiff from the SSNU to the POC because the inmate had used obscene language to Nurse Karen Haggerty. See Doc. 25, p. 3. While housed in the POC, Banks was allegedly deprived of legal and personal property including some basic necessities such as soap, toothpaste, a mattress, and a toothbrush. In addition, Plaintiff was purportedly only given a single set of clothes and the POC cell had bright 24 hour a day illumination.

Banks next claims that he was deprived of fourteen (14) meals for refusing to uncover an in-cell security camera. Plaintiff asserts that the denial of those meals was improper as food cannot be used by correctional staff as a reward or for punishment. It is also asserted that Plaintiff’s subsequent placement on modified meals consisting of bag meals by Defendant Kovalchi was unlawful because he had not committed one of the enumerated acts of misconduct for which such action (food bag restriction) can be imposed.

Plaintiff next states that he was transferred from the POC to the RHU on September 10, 2010, by Lieutenant Popson based on the inmate’s continued refusal to uncover the security camera. See id. at ¶ 18. A report issued on September 20, 2010 described Banks as having “had suicidal tendency.” Id. at ¶ 22. In light of that evaluation, Banks was apparently transferred back to a POC. While in the POC, Plaintiff continued to receive bag meals from Trotman, Walker, and Bresnock. See id. at ¶ 23.

On September 22, 2010, Banks was purportedly discharged from the POC and illegally placed in the RHU instead of being returned to the SSNU for treatment of his mental health problems. Due to his continued covering up of the security camera, Plaintiff was placed on nutri-loaf meals. After a week without food, Plaintiff was allegedly told by Lieutenant Popson that if he didn’t uncover the camera he would be placed in a restraint chair.

When Banks continued to refuse to uncover the security camera on the grounds that he needed medical treatment, an extraction team took the Plaintiff to the infirmary where he was placed in a restraint chair. After being put in the chair, Banks was moved to a strip cell which was covered in plexiglass which allegedly made it hard to breathe. Later that same day, Plaintiff was temporarily taken from the strip cell so that his vitals could be taken and he could be given water. Nine (9) hours later, Plaintiff was released from both the strip cell and the restraint chair. See id. at ¶ 31. On October 26, 2011, Plaintiff was again improperly placed in a POC cell by Defendant Lorgrady. Banks remained in the POC for approximately two and a half days where he was again allegedly subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The Amended Complaint seeks punitive, compensatory, and nominal damages as well as injunctive relief.

Presently pending is Corrections Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. See Doc. 53. The opposed ...


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