United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
Charles S. Haight, Jr. Senior United States District Judge
Courtney Green ("Green"), incarcerated in a
Connecticut prison and appearing pro se, has filed a
Complaint, containing a number of allegations which assert
claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several state
Defendants identified by the Complaint are Warden Antonio
Santiago; Warden Scott Erfe; District Administrator Peter
Murphy; Deputy Warden J. Zegarzewski; Deputy Warden G.
Mudano; Captain D. Williams; Captain Doughtory; Lieutenant
Conger; Lietenant M. Pluszynski; Administrative Remedies
Coordinator Michelle King, and Visiting Coordinator S.
Defendants are named in their individual and official
capacities and were employed at Corrigan-Radgowski
Correctional Institution ("Corrigan") where Green
was incarcerated at the time of the alleged events.
Ruling begins with, and consists principally of, the
Court's sua sponte review of Green's
pleadings, a review mandated by the Prison Litigation Reform
Act of 1996 (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
U.S.C. § 1915A directs federal district courts to
consider all prisoner civil complaints against governmental
actors, and dismiss any portion of the complaint that
"is frivolous, malicious, or 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." § 1915A(b)(1), (2).
district court's sua sponte dismissal of a
prisoner's complaint under § 1915A is reviewed
de novo by the court of appeals. Where the district
court has dismissed for failure to state a claim, the Second
Circuit has said that "we accept all of plaintiff's
factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw
inferences from those allegations in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff. We must reverse a district court's
dismissal pursuant to § 1915A whenever a liberal reading
of the complaint gives any indication that a valid claim
might be stated." Larkin v. Savage, 318 F.3d
138, 139 (2d Cir. 2003) (citations and internal quotation
district court level, the district judge's § 1915A
review of whether a complaint "fails to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted" is guided by the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as interpreted by Supreme
Court and Second Circuit decisions whose principles have
become familiar. A pro se complaint is adequately
pleaded if its allegations, liberally construed, could
"conceivably give rise to a viable claim."
Phillips v. Girdich, 408 F.3d 124, 130 (2d Cir.
2005). The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded and
non-conclusory factual matters alleged in a complaint,
although a complaint may not survive unless its factual
recitations state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009); Mastafa v. Chevron Corp., 770 F.3d 170,
177 (2d Cir. 2014) (same). 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). In
Larkin the Second Circuit took care to say, in the
§ 1915A context: "We will not affirm the dismissal
of a complaint unless it appears beyond doubt, even when the
complaint is liberally construed, that the plaintiff can
prove no set of facts that would entitle him to relief."
318 F.3d at 139 (citation omitted). The Court will apply
these standards in conducting its initial review of any
claims asserted by Green. The Court begins with a recitation
of the factual allegations contained in these pleadings.
factual allegations contained in Green's Complaint, filed
on October 17, 2016, are recounted herein, recited in the
light most favorable to Green. They describe Green's
August 2014 transfer from Cheshire Correctional Institution
("CCI") to Corrigan, his subsequent exposure to
Corrigan's visiting policies, and the chronology of his
objections to these policies, including his formal
Green's History of Contact Visits at
was confined at CCI for approximately four and one half
years, prior to his August 2014 transfer to Corrigan. As of
August 2014, Green had been "discipline report
free" for five and one-half years, with no assaults on
Department of Correction staff. Green had no gang
affiliation, no history of introducing contraband into a
correctional facility, and posed no unusual safety concern to
prison staff or fellow inmates.
confined at CCI, Green was afforded contact visits with his
family, in accordance with Connecticut Department of
Correction Administrative Directive 10.6(6)L.1. Green was
then, and remains today, in compliance with the provisions of
that Directive regarding prisoner eligibility for contact
Initial Denial of Contact Visits at
his transfer to Corrigan, in September 2014, Green received a
visit from his spouse and child. This visit was non-contact,
meaning that a glass partition separated Green from his
visitors. Green expressed his displeasure with this
arrangement to the visiting officer in charge. Green was told
he would not be allowed contact visits, as Corrigan is a
"non-contact facility." Green objected to the
visiting officer's characterization of Corrigan as a
"non-contact facility, " telling the officer this
could not be true, as two other inmates were receiving
contact visits at the same time that such visits were denied
to Green. The visiting officer replied that while the officer
was not responsible for making the visiting rules, Green
could write to Defendant Conger to get into the "M.A.C.
group, " as only M.A.C. group members were eligible to
receive contact visits at Corrigan. The visiting officer
inquired into Green's disciplinary record, and, upon
hearing that Green had not had a disciplinary report for five
and one-half years, assured Green that there would be no
difficulty in his obtaining contact visits.
The M.A.C. Group
days after the visit described above, Green wrote to
Defendant Conger, the M.A.C. group coordinator, to request
enrollment in the M.A.C. group, via inmate request. Defendant
Conger never responded to Plaintiff's request in writing.
However, while Defendant Conger was touring Green's
housing unit, F-Pod, Defendant Conger notified Green in
person that Green did not meet the requirements for M.A.C.
requirements for membership in the M.A.C. group are as
follows: (1) inmates must be "discipline free" for
two years; and (2) inmates must have a minimum of twenty-five
years remaining on their sentence at the time of their
application to the group. Green met the first condition, by
virtue of his clean disciplinary record. He did not meet the
second condition; at the time of his application to the
M.A.C. group, Green had less than twenty-five years remaining
on his sentence. As Defendant Conger informed him, Green was
therefore ineligible for membership in the M.A.C. group.
M.A.C. group consists of fifteen inmates. Corrigan has a
population of approximately 800 inmates, but of this
population, the fifteen members of the M.A.C. group are the
only inmates afforded contact visits. Defendant Williams
served, at one time, as M.A.C. group coordinator. Defendant
Pluszynski is the M.A.C. group contact visit/high security
coordinator. Defendant Jubinsky is Visiting Coordinator, and
as such "signed off" on the M.A.C. group policies.
Defendant Doughtory is the Intel Captain of Corrigan, and
also approved of the M.A.C. group policies. Defendant
Zegarzewski, as Deputy Warden of Programs and Treatment,
allowed the M.A.C. group to function under that authority.
Defendant Mudano, as Deputy Warden, also gave approval to the
M.A.C. group policies.
Level 4 correctional facilities in Connecticut, including
CCI, Garner Correctional Institution, and MacDougall
Correctional Institution, allow contact visits for their
general populations, as described by Administrative Directive
10.6(6)L.1. There is no M.A.C. group or equivalent limitation
on access to contact visits at the referenced institutions.
Green's Protests and Grievance
September 2014, after receiving Defendant Conger's
negative response to his application to join the M.A.C.
group, Green wrote to Defendant Erfe in protest of
Corrigan's contact visit policies. At the time this
letter was sent, Green understood that Defendant Erfe was the
warden of Corrigan. Green never received a response to this
January 2015, Green mentioned the lack of response to his
letter to Defendant Erfe to Green's counselor, non-party
Counselor Meigs. Counselor Meigs informed Green that
Defendant Erfe was no longer the warden of Corrigan, and had
not held that post for a few months. Counselor Meigs
suggested that Green address his concerns to the new warden,
February 22, 2015, Green addressed an inmate request to
Defendant Santiago, inquiring into the authority cited for
Corrigan's failure to provide contact visits to its
general population, while allowing contact visits for the
fifteen members of the M.A.C. group. By the same inmate
request, Green further requested a contact visit with
March 2, 2015, Green received a written response from
Defendant Santiago. This response again denied Green's
request for contact visits, without providing any additional
rationale for this denial.
then filed an administrative remedy (grievance) to protest
the repeated denial of his requests for contact visits.
King denied Green's grievance. Defendant King cited the
permissive language of Administrative Directive 10.6, which
states that Level 2, 3, and 4 facilities may provide
for contact visits (emphasis added). Defendant King
instructed Green to contact nonparty Counselor Supervisor
Cruz, to request placement on the transfer list, and ...