United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
PETRESE B. TUCKER, J.
William Johnakin, a pretrial detainee incarcerated at the
Berks County Jail, brings this pro se civil action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which he primarily
challenges the constitutionality of the conditions at the
Berks County Jail. In an Order entered on the docket April
11, 2018 (ECF No. 9), the Court granted Johnakin leave to
proceed in forma pauperis, construed one of his
filings as a motion to file an amended complaint, and granted
that motion. Johnakin filed an Amended Complaint (ECF No.
11), which is currently before the Court. He also filed a
statement indicating that he would like to add more claims to
his Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 12.) For the following
reasons, the Court will dismiss the claims raised in the
Amended Complaint and additional statement pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), because Johnakin has failed
to state a claim.
Amended Complaint names the following Defendants: (1) Berks
County Jail System; (2) Warden of BCJS Janine Quigley
(misspelled Janice Quigley); (3) Chief Deputy Warden of BCJS
Smith; (4) Prime Care Medical; (5) the Berks County District
Attorney's Office; (6) Berks County; and (7) City of
Reading, P. A. A review of public dockets reflects that
Johnakin is awaiting trial in the Berks County Court of
Common Pleas on a charge of retail theft. See
Commonwealth v. Johnakin, Docket No.
CP-06-CR-0000322-2018. The docket reflects that he is
represented by counsel from the Public Defender's Office.
Johnakin's Amended Complaint sets forth a host of
grievances related to his prosecution and the conditions in
which he is confined.
in part challenges the manner in which he was charged in his
criminal case. He indicates that prosecutors have used his
misdemeanors in another state as a basis for charging him
with a felony, which he believes constitutes a double
jeopardy violation. He also suggests that the District
Attorney's Office "use[d] the jail and its officers
to steal key information from [his] cell pertaining to
said/such case to learn [his] defense strategies and in turn
make said trial unfair for [him] ...." (Am. Compl. ECF
No. 11 at 7-8.) The Amended Complaint also alludes to
Johnakin's "right to examine/receive a copy of [his]
criminal history." (Id. at 6.)
remainder of Johnakin's Amended Complaint challenges the
conditions at the Berks County Jail. His pleading reflects
his belief that the facility is not well run and that inmates
receive no communication. He also raises more specific
complaints about certain conditions at the jail.
Johnakin alleges that he has the "right to be told why
[he] can't work inside the jail when at the same time in
2017 [he] was allowed [to] work within the jail."
(Id. at 6.) In that regard, Johnakin contends he was
informed that to be a unit worker on the block, he would need
medical clearance but was not told why. Johnakin alleges it
could be months before he sees the doctor, as opposed to a
nurse, because the medical provider, Prime Care, allegedly
has only one doctor for seven county jails. Johnakin appears
frustrated that the nurses cannot answer why he needs medical
clearance and states that he "think[s] they are
discriminating against [him]." (Id. at 11.)
Johnakin alleges that he has the "right to receive [his]
mail in a timely fashion not when the jail deems it good for
them to give it out." (Id. at 7.) In that
regard, Johnakin alleges his family informed him that they
sent mail but that he only received two letters. He also
received notices that certain letters were returned, one
"because the envelope had a stain on it" and one
because "the sender didn't put [his] BCJS inmate
numbers on it." (Id. at 12.)
Johnakin alleges that he has "the right to ask for soap
to clean [his] body without being charged a fee" if he
is indigent. (Id. at 7.) He does not allege that he
was denied soap, or further elaborate on that allegation.
Johnakin alleges that he has "the right to eat [his]
food in the day room provided and not [be] locked up in a
cell if [he is] not in the box like [an] animal."
(Id.) Along those lines, Johnakin contends that
"they lock us up 21 hrs a day" and that he
"would like to eat [his] food without having to look at
a toilet that is sometimes filled with feces and urine cause
some of the officers don't want to unlock it."
(Id. at 16.) He adds that the jail can be locked
down "for days at a time" without anyone telling
the inmates. (Id. at 13.)
Johnakin contends that he has a "right to feel safe in
[the Berks County Jail] or any institution without having to
see officers carrying around shotguns and tazers [sic] in and
out of inmate housing units." (Id. at 7.) That
allegation appears to relate to his concern that some jail
employees are permitted to carry Tasers at the jail. The
Amended Complaint also implies that one of the officers
stationed on the way to the medical unit has a shotgun.
(Id. at 16.)
Johnakin alleges that on April 12, 2018, Officer Drosdak, who
is not a Defendant in this case, grabbed food out of his hand
and put her finger in it, thereby contaminating the food. She
ultimately threw the food away. The Amended Complaint
suggests that the officer also threw away the food of six
other inmates, only one of whom was white while the others
were "either Spanish or [Johnakin] the only Black
[African American] person." (Am. Compl. ECF No. 11, at
indicates that he named the Berks County Jail System as a
Defendant because "most events happen[ed] within [the]
Berks County Jail System." (Id. at 10.) He
named the Warden and Deputy Warden because they "run and
therefore have to have knowledge of all and everything that
happens within Berks County Jail." (Id.)
Johnakin claims that the Berks County District Attorney's
Office's "actions cast unfavorable shadows on the
City of Reading and Berks County, " and that the City
and County "are condoning such [unspecified] actions by
letting these actions continue to happen."
section of the form complaint used by Johnakin to file his
Amended Complaint that asks about injuries, Johnakin wrote
"-NA-". (Id. at 15.) He appears to be
asking for injunctive relief including an order establishing
that he gets to: (1) eat his food without having to look at
the toilet or have an officer stick her fingers in it; (2)
feel safe in the jail; (3) get soap if he doesn't have
money to buy any; and (4) have a fair trial.
weeks after having submitted his Amended Complaint, Johnakin
submitted a second filing in which he indicates his desire to
add more claims based on the conditions at the Berks County
Jail. Although these claims are not contained in the Amended
Complaint, the Court will address them at this time. First,
he appears to be challenging a search on k-block that was
conducted in a "rigorous way." (ECF No. 12 at 2.)
Johnakin appears to be upset that, when he asked the reason
for the search, he was told "you know why" even
though he did not know of the reason for the search.
(Id.) Second, Johnakin claims that he is missing one
of three copies of his § 1983 complaint and questions
whether the "jail makes a habit of stealing inmates
legal work now." (Id. at 3.) Third, he alleges
that an officer strip-searched him in his cell while the door
was open so that other inmates could see the search. Fourth,
he complains that inmates are not permitted to "give
anyone any food item" and that doing so is treated as a
punishable offense. (Id. at 4.) He also complains
that "they even tell [inmates] what [they] can or cannot
do with [their] commissary" and that inmates cannot
"mix any of our commissary together."
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Johnakin is proceeding in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915 (e)(2)(B)(ii) applies, which requires the Court
to dismiss the Amended Complaint if it fails to state a
claim. Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard
applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184
F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999), which requires the Court to
determine whether the complaint contains "sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted).
Conclusory allegations do not suffice. Id. As
Johnakin is proceeding pro se, the Court construes
his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen.,
655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the
violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of
the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation
was committed by a person acting under color of state
law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
Here, Johnakin has not stated a constitutional claim for the
following reasons. Here, Johnakin has not stated a
constitutional claim for the following reasons.
Claims Against the Berks County Jail System
jails and departments of county jails are not
"persons" that are "subject to suit under
federal civil rights laws." Regan v. Upper Darby
Twp., No. CIV A 06-1686, 2009 WL 650384, at *4 (E.D. Pa.
Mar. 11, 2009), aff'd, 363 Fed.Appx. 917 (3d
Cir. 2010). Accordingly, the "Berks County Jail
System" is not a proper party to this case. The Court
will therefore dismiss Johnakin's claims against that
Claims Against the ...