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Jackson v. Armel

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 2, 2018

CHARLES JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ERIC T. ARMEL, DEBRA A. HAWKINBERRY, WILLIAM TIFT, STEVEN GATES, LEROY STALEY, FRANK SALVAY, JAY LANE, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER Re: ECF 24

          MAUREEN P. KELLY, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Charles Jackson (“Plaintiff”) is an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, who previously was incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Fayette (“SCI-Fayette”). Plaintiff brings this civil rights action against Defendants Eric T. Armel, Debra A. Hawkinberry, William Tift, Steven Gates, Leroy Staley, Frank Salvay and Jay Lane (collectively, “Defendants”), all of whom are employed at SCI-Fayette, alleging that they failed to protect him from assault in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

         Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) with a brief in support, which is opposed by Plaintiff. ECF Nos. 24, 25, 29, and 30. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss will be granted and Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed.

         All parties have consented to jurisdiction by the undersigned Magistrate Judge. See ECF Nos. 21 and 22.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that he was placed in the Restricted Housing Unit (“RHU”) at SCI-Fayette on September 4, 2016, as a sanction for attempting to introduce contraband into the prison. ECF No. 8 at 3. In a Program Review Committee (“PRC”) meeting held on November 29, 2016, Plaintiff supposedly informed the PRC members that he would be in danger if he was released back into the general population and he requested a transfer. Id. A form documenting the PRC meeting states that “[i]nmate reports issues with release to GP, ” indicates that a security review was needed to determine whether a transfer was necessary and specifies that Plaintiff would be moved to administrative custody on December 2, 2016. ECF No. 8-1, Ex. A.[1] Defendants Armel, Hawkinberry and Tift signed the form. Id.

         Defendant Tift reviewed and approved a form report showing that Plaintiff was placed in administrative custody status on December 2, 2016, because “inmate is in danger by/from some person(s) in the facility and cannot be protected by alternate means.” ECF No. 8-2, Ex. B. The notes of a PRC meeting held on December 6, 2016, again specify the need for a security review and indicate Plaintiff would remain in administrative custody status. ECF No. 8-3, Ex. C. Defendants Armel and Tift signed the PRC meeting notes. Id. At another PRC meeting held on December 8, 2016, Plaintiff's status was discussed, he “asked how long before he gets transferred, ” and he was continued in administrative custody status. ECF No. 8-4, Ex. D. Defendants Tift and Gates signed those meeting notes. Id.

         Approximately two weeks later, while still in administrative custody, Plaintiff wrote to Defendant Armel on December 20, 2016, requesting to be transferred to certain prisons. ECF No. 8 at 3. Defendant Armel responded that he would “copy the security office. OPM decides where you go.” ECF No. 8-5, Ex. E.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was released from administrative custody back into the general population at SCI-Fayette on December 22, 2016. ECF No. 8 at 3. Plaintiff claims that he protested his release and reiterated his fear of harm, but was told that he would receive a misconduct and be returned to disciplinary custody if he refused. Id.

         On January 13, 2017, Plaintiff alleges that another inmate slashed him in the face with a razor, resulting in a wound that required 13 staples. ECF No. 8 at 3, 9. According to Plaintiff, the attack was in response to his misconduct for bringing contraband into the prison and supposedly the reason he informed Defendants Armel, Hawkinberry, Tift and Gates that he would be in danger if released into the general population. Id. at 9. Following the incident, Plaintiff was issued a misconduct for fighting and placed back in the RHU. Id.

         On January 18, 2017, Plaintiff filed a grievance concerning the attack, claiming that Defendant Staley said “he had things backwards, ” which Plaintiff interpreted to mean that Staley “didn't do his job.” ECF No. 8-7, Ex. G. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Armel, Hawkinberry, Tift and Gates, who participated in the PRC meetings, and Defendants Staley and Salvay, who were security personnel, failed to protect him after he advised them that he was in danger. ECF No. 8 at 9.

         Defendant Salvay denied Plaintiff's grievance on February 3, 2017, noting that he spoke with Defendant Staley, who did not know what Plaintiff meant about him “having things backwards.” ECF No. 8-8, Ex. H. Defendant Salvay's denial explained that the security office had no information to indicate that Plaintiff's safety would be in jeopardy if he was released to the general population at SCI - Fayette. Id. Plaintiff subsequently appealed the denial of his grievance. ECF No. 8-9, Ex. I. Defendant Lane upheld the denial on March 10, 2017, because:

[Plaintiff] self-reported [he] had issues with being released to general population. [He was] moved to AC status upon completion of [his] DC time. The Security Staff evaluated [his] potential release and found no credible information that [he was] in danger if released to general population. The staff did their due diligence. Information provided is attempted to be vetted before any decision is made. There [was] no way for the staff to predict [Plaintiff was] in danger if released.

ECF No. 8-10, Ex. J. Plaintiff appealed Defendant Lane's decision to the Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals. ECF No. 8-11, Ex. K. On April 25, 2017, the Chief Grievance Officer upheld Defendant Lane's decision because the record showed that the security office at SCI-Fayette did not have information that Plaintiff's safety was in ...


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