United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge.
Luis Rivera, currently incarcerated at the New Haven
Correctional Center in New Haven, has filed a complaint
pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2000). The
complaint was received by the court on February 8, 2017, and
his motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted
on April 12, 2017. The named Defendants are Warden Kimberly
Weir; Deputy Warden Paul Oulette; Captain Woods; Counselor
Supervisor Sandra Violette; Correctional Officers Alverado,
Jane Doe 1 and John Doe 1; Correctional Counselors Kimberly
Casey, James Zuccolo, Cassandra Moss and Jane Doe 2; and
Lieutenant Dino Cichetti. All Defendants are named in
individual and official capacities. Plaintiff alleges that
Defendants unreasonably subjected him to a strip search in
view of other inmate and female staff. He seeks declaratory
relief and damages.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) (2000), the court must review
prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the
complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that fails to state
a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief. In reviewing a pro se complaint, the court
must assume the truth of the allegations, and interpret them
liberally to “raise the strongest arguments [they]
suggest.” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639
(2d Cir. 2007). Although detailed allegations are not
required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to
afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the
grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a right
to relief. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not
sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is
well-established that “pro se complaints ‘must be
construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest
arguments that they suggest.'” Sykes v. Bank of
Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting
Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471,
474 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater,
623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules
of solicitude for pro se litigants).
February 5, 2014, Plaintiff was housed in Dorm 9A at Carl
Robinson Correctional Institution serving a nine-month
sentence. Doc. #1, ¶ 18. At 8:30 a.m. inmates were
allowed to exchange their identification cards for single
blade disposable razors to shave. Doc. #1, ¶ 20. At 9:00
a.m., Defendant John Doe announced that one razor had not
been returned. Doc. #1, ¶ 21. Operations in Dorm 9A
remained normal through lunch time. Doc. #1, ¶¶
22-23. Upon returning from the dining hall, Defendant
Cichetti ordered all inmates in Dorm 9A to go to their bunks
and remain there. Doc. # 1, ¶ 26. All Defendants except
Defendants Weir, Oulette, Woods and Violette were present in
the dorm at this time. Doc. #1, ¶ 26. Defendants
Alvarado, Zuccolo and Jane Doe 1 were patrolling the tiers
adjacent to the bunks. Doc. #1, ¶ 27. The other
Defendants were stationed throughout Dorm 9A. Doc. #1, ¶
sitting on his bunk, Plaintiff observed Defendant Woods enter
Dorm 9A, speak briefly to Defendant Cichetti, and leave. Doc.
#1, ¶ 29. As Defendant Woods left Dorm 9A, Defendant
Cichetti ordered the inmates, eighteen at a time, to go to an
adjacent recreation room to be strip-searched. Doc. #1,
¶ 30. All Defendants except Defendants Weir, Oulette and
Woods organized the searches. Doc. #1, ¶ 31. Defendant
Violette was present only part of the time. Doc. #1, ¶
recreation area is fully visible from Dorm 9A. Doc. #1,
¶ 33. When the searches began, inmate Bushwick
complained to Defendant Cichetti that the searches were being
conducted in direct view of female employees. Doc. #1, ¶
34. Defendant Cichetti told him to undergo the search or go
to restrictive housing. Doc. #1, ¶ 34.
was strip-searched by Defendant John Doe in direct view of
seventeen other inmates in the recreation room, 100 inmates
in Dorm 9A and all Defendants except Defendants Weir, Oulette
and Woods. Doc. #1, ¶ 35. The search was recorded on a
digital camera. Doc. #1, ¶ 37. Plaintiff saw Defendant
Alverado, a female, and Jane Doe 1 observe naked inmates.
Doc. #1, ¶ 38. Defendants Jane Doe 2 and Moss were
pointing at naked inmates and giggling. Doc. #1, ¶ 38.
are seven private shower stalls adjacent to Dorm 9A that
could have been used to conduct private strip searches. Doc.
#1, ¶ 40. Following the strip searches, the inmates were
sent to the gym while staff searched the housing area. Doc.
#1, ¶ 41. Upon their return from the gym, normal
operations resumed. Doc. #1, ¶ 42.
alleges that the Defendants violated his First Amendment
right to practice his religion and his Fourth Amendment right
to be free from unreasonable searches by conducting the
searches in view of other inmates as well as male and female
staff and by recording the searches. He also claims the
Defendants violated Administrative Directive 6.7.
an inmate's Fourth Amendment claim challenges an isolated
search, “courts typically apply the standard set forth
in Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979).”
Harris v. Miller, 818 F.3d 49, 58 (2d Cir. 2016)
(citing Byrd v. Maricopa Cty. Sheriff's
Dep't, 629 F.3d 1135, 1141 n. 6 (9th Cir. 2011) (en
banc)). Inmate strip searches “are constitutionally
valid if they are reasonably related to a legitimate
penological interest.” Perez v. Ponte, No. CV
16-645 (JFB) (AKT), 2017 WL 1047258, at *19 (E.D.N.Y. Feb.
14, 2017) (citation omitted). Reasonableness is evaluated by
considering “the scope of the particular intrusion, the
manner in which it is conducted, the justification for
initiating it, and the place in which it is conducted.”
Bell, 441 U.S. at 559. Correctional officials must
be permitted to create reasonable search policies to detect
and deter possession of contraband. Florence v. Bd. of
Chosen Freeholders of Cty. of Burlington, 566 U.S. 318,
328 (2012). Thus, absent “substantial evidence in the
record to indicate that the officials exaggerated their
response” to legitimate penological concerns, courts
generally defer to the judgment of prison officials.
Id. Here, Plaintiff does not object to the search
itself, only to the fact that he was searched in the view of
other inmates and staff.
district courts within the Second Circuit considering this
issue have concluded that the presence of other inmates or
staff, either male or female, does not render a strip search
per se unconstitutional. See Perez, 2017 WL
1047258, at *20 (citing cases). Recent cases addressing an
inmate's “right to privacy suggest that occasional,
indirect, or brief viewing of a naked prisoner by a guard of
the opposite sex may be permissible but that ‘regular
and close viewing' is prohibited.” Corr.
Officers Benevolent Ass'n of Rockland Cty. v.
Kralik, No. 04 Civ. 2199(PGG), 2011 WL 1236135, at *11
(S.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2011); see also Miles v. Bell,
621 F.Supp. 51, 67 (D. Conn. 1985) (“As a general rule,
courts have found a violation only in those cases in which
guards regularly watch inmates of the opposite sex who are
engaged in personal activities, such as undressing, using
toilet facilities or showering.”) (internal quotation
claim related to one search. The presence of correctional
staff and other inmates does not necessarily render the
search unconstitutional. SeeHarris v.
Miller, 818 F.3d at 58-59 (noting that a cross-gender
strip searches is a “greater invasion” of privacy
and typically frowned upon) (citing Canedy v.
Boardman,16 F.3d 183, 185 (7th Cir.1994)). Plaintiff
does not allege facts showing that he was regularly viewed by
female staff. In fact, he does not allege that any female
staff members looked at him in particular. Nor does he allege
that the officers conducting the search were aware that it
was being observed by female officers. The Second ...