United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
E.K. PRATTER, J.
matter comes before the Court by way of a Complaint (ECF No.
2), lodged by Plaintiff Richard Saunders, proceeding pro
se. Also before the Court is Mr. Saunders's Motion
to Proceed In Forma Pauper is (ECF No. 1). Because
it appears that Mr. Saunders is unable to afford to pay the
filing fee, the Court will grant him leave to proceed in
forma pauperis. For the following reasons, the Complaint
will be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii).
Saunders, a prisoner currently incarcerated at George W. Hill
Correctional Facility ("GWHCF"), brings this civil
rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging
violations of his rights under the First, Eighth, and
Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. (ECF No. 2 at 1,
3-5.) Mr. Saunders's allegations arise from prison
conditions that resulted during a ten-day lockdown of Unit 7A
of GWHCF from August 5, 2019 through August 15, 2019.
(Id. at 3-4.) Specifically, Mr. Saunders alleges
that on August 5, 2019 an unnamed Sergeant at GWHCF was
assaulted by an unnamed inmate. (Id. at 3.) Mr.
Saunders contends that this assault prompted Defendants
Warden David Byrne, Deputy Warden Mario Colucci,
Superintendent John A. Reilly, and Lieutenant Moore to
institute an "emergency response" wherein
Defendants and a dozen unnamed correctional officers locked
down the unit and handcuffed the inmate responsible for the
Saunders alleges that for the first four days of the
lockdown, the inmates on Unit 7 A were: (1) not given the
opportunity to shower; (2) were not provided with "cleaning
supplies[;]" and (3) were denied phone and visiting
privileges. (Id. at 3-4.) Mr. Saunders also asserts
that there was no air ventilation for the first four days of
the lockdown. (Id. at 3.) Subsequently, on or about
Friday, August 9, 2019 - approximately the fifth day of
lockdown, Mr. Saunders alleges that inmates were not
"allowed to [Jumu'ah] [in order] to practice [their]
religious belief[s.]" (Id. at 4.) On or about
Monday, August 12, 2019 - approximately the eighth day of
lockdown, Mr. Saunders asserts that inmates were not
"allowed to go to the law library[.]"
(Id.) Finally, Mr. Saunders alleges that no mail was
distributed to the inmates for the entirety of the ten-day
lockdown, but that by August 15, 2019, "Unit 7A was
returned to normal activities[.]" (Id. at 5.)
Based on the conditions of confinement he encountered during
the lockdown, Mr. Saunders now seeks to bring the following:
(1) a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim; (2) an Eighth
Amendment deliberate indifference claim; (3) a First
Amendment claim regarding free exercise of religion; and (4)
a First Amendment claim for access to the
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court will grant Mr. Saunders leave to proceed in forma
pauperis because it appears that he is incapable of
paying the fees to commence this civil action. Accordingly, 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) requires the Court to dismiss the
Complaint if, among other things, it is frivolous or fails to
state a claim. A complaint is subject to dismissal under
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) as frivolous if it "lacks an
arguable basis either in law or in fact," Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989), and is legally
baseless if it is "based on an indisputably meritless
legal theory." Deutsch v. United States, 67
F.3d 1080, 1085 (3d Cir. 1995). 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 Mr. Saunders is proceeding pro
se, the Court construes his allegations liberally.
Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir.
Saunders's Complaint alleges claims for violation of his
civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the vehicle
by which federal constitutional claims may be brought in
federal court. "To 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). "A defendant in a civil rights
action must have personal involvement in the alleged
wrongs." See Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d
1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). Furthermore, "[b]ecause
vicarious liability is inapplicable to ... § 1983 suits,
a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official
defendant, through the official's own individual actions,
has violated the Constitution." Iqbal, 556 U.S.
respect to claims challenging conditions of confinement, the
Eighth Amendment governs claims brought by convicted inmates,
while the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
governs claims brought by pretrial detainees. Hubbard v.
Taylor, 399 F.3d 150, 166 (3d Cir. 2005). As Mr.
Saunders's status during his incarceration is not clear
from the Complaint, his claim is analyzed under both
Amendments. Unconstitutional punishment, be it under the
Eighth Amendment applicable to convicted prisoners or the
Fourteenth Amendment applicable to pretrial detainees,
typically includes both objective and subjective components.
Stevenson v. Carroll, 495 F.3d 62, 68 (3d Cir.
2007). The objective component requires an inquiry into
whether "the deprivation [was] sufficiently
serious" and the subjective component asks whether
"the officials act[ed] with a sufficiently culpable
state of mind[.]" Id. (citing Wilson v.
Seites, 501 U.S. 294, 298; Bell v. Wolfish, 441
U.S. 520, 538-39, 539 n.20 (1979)). In prison condition
cases, the state of mind requirement is one of deliberate
indifference. Edwards v. Northampton Cty., 663
Fed.Appx. 132, 135 (3d Cir. 2016) (per curiam).
'"[T]he official must both be aware of facts from
which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of
serious harm exists, and he must also draw that
inference.'" Wilson v. Burks, 423 Fed.Appx.
169, 173 (3d Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (quoting Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)).
GWHCF is Not a "Person" Subject to Suit Under
outset the Court notes that Mr. Saunders named GWHCF as a
Defendant in this action. However, a prison is not considered
a "person" subject to suit within the meaning
§ 1983. See Lenhart v. Pennsylvania, 528
Fed.Appx. 111, 114 (3d Cir. 2013) ("Westmoreland County
Prison is not a person capable of being sued within the
meaning of § 1983."); Edwards, 663
Fed.Appx. at 136 (recognizing prison was not a
"person" under § 1983); see also White v.
Knight, 710 Fed.Appx. 260, 262 (7th Cir. 2018).
Accordingly, any claim alleged against GWHCF itself will be
dismissed with prejudice pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).
General Conditions of Confinement Claims During
respect Mr. Saunders's conditions of confinement claims
against the remaining Defendants, Mr. Saunders does not
allege facts sufficient to establish a plausible claim for
violations of either the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process
Clause or the Eight Amendment based on the conditions he
encountered during the ten-day lockdown of Unit 7 A at GWHCF.
Generally, courts recognize that prison lockdowns which last
for an extended period of time violate the Eighth Amendment.
Liles v. Camden Cty. Dep 't of Corr., 225
F.Supp.2d 450, 461 (D.N.J. 2002) (citing Delaney v.
DeTella,256 F.3d 679, 686 (7th Cir. 2001)) (concluding
that six-month lockdown violated the Eighth Amendment);
see also Hall v. Williams,960 F.2d 146 (4th Cir.
1992) (reversing the grant of summary judgment in ...