United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING AND ORDER
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
T. Harvin, Nirone Hutton, Jose Ramos and Cordell L. Woolfolk
(collectively, “Plaintiffs”), were each confined
at the MacDougall Correctional Institution in Suffield,
Connecticut (“MacDougall”) when they initiated
this action on September 26, 2016. ECF No. 1. They bring this
action pro se and in forma pauperis under
28 U.S.C. § 1915 against Warden Carol Chapdelaine,
Maintenance Supervisor Street, Commissioner Semple, Counselor
Supervisor Davis and the Royal Flush company (collectively,
December 9, 2016, the Court issued an order noting that,
given that all of the specific events Plaintiffs alleged in
the Complaint occurred between September 9, 2016 and
September 13, 2016, it was not possible for Plaintiffs to
have exhausted their administrative remedies before filing
the Complaint, which each of the Plaintiffs signed between
September 12, 2016 and September 15, 2016, before the Court
received and filed the Complaint on September 26,
2016. See Order at 7-9, ECF No. 30. As
the Court's previous order explained, before an
incarcerated plaintiff may bring any federal lawsuit
regarding “prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. §
1983] or any other Federal law, ” he or she must fully
exhaust available administrative remedies. 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(a). Although it was apparent from the face of the
Complaint that the Plaintiffs could not have met this
requirement before filing the Complaint, the Court
nonetheless gave Plaintiffs an opportunity to file a response
regarding whether they had fully exhausted their
administrative remedies. Order at 13.
have now filed responses to the Court's previous order.
ECF No. 33 (Mr. Hutton); ECF No. 34 (Mr. Harvin); ECF No. 36
(Mr. Woolfolk); ECF No. 37 (Mr. Ramos); ECF No. 39 (Mr.
Ramos, attaching exhibits). Mr. Woolfolk also filed a motion
for an extension of time for an additional twenty days to
exhaust his administrative remedies. ECF No. 35.
have also filed other motions that are now pending before the
Court. Mr. Harvin has filed a motion to add several new
parties as additional defendants in this case, signed only by
himself. ECF No. 32. Mr. Hutton, Mr. Harvin, and Mr. Ramos
then filed a similar motion to add some of the same new
parties as additional defendants, signed by each of them, but
not by Mr. Woolfolk (the “Joint Motion”). ECF No.
reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Mr.
Woolfolk's motion for an extension of time to exhaust his
administrative remedies, ECF No. 35. Mr. Harvin's
individual motion to add new defendants, ECF No. 32, is
DENIED to the extent that it seeks to
supplement the Complaint to add Counselor Hess as a defendant
and the claims against her and DENIED as
moot to the extent it seeks to amend the Complaint to add the
Town of Suffield, Connecticut, First Selectman of the Town of
Suffield Melissa Mack and a company/corporation called SLOAN
(collectively the “New Defendants”) as
defendants, as this same relief is requested by the Joint
Motion. The Joint Motion, ECF No. 38, is construed as a
motion to amend the complaint to add the New Defendants to
the Complaint is GRANTED.
Clerk of the Court is directed to docket the Joint Motion,
ECF No. 38, as an Amended Complaint, and add the Town of
Suffield, Connecticut, First Selectman of the Town of
Suffield Melissa Mack and a corporation called SLOAN as
defendants in this case. As the Court further explains below,
however, all of the claims in this case must be dismissed.
This case will, therefore, be dismissed in its entirety and
judgment entered in favor of the Defendants and New
sake of clarity, the Court repeats its description of the
allegations in the Plaintiffs' Complaint, though the
primary issue before the Court at this time with regards to
these allegations is whether Plaintiffs have met the
administrative exhaustion requirement of the PLRA.
generally assert that they are all housed in the O-Pod
housing unit at MacDougall. Compl. at 8, ECF No. 1. They
allege that they may only flush the toilets in their cells
twice during each five-minute period. Id. If an
inmate flushes a third time during the five-minute period,
the prison staff will, allegedly, re-set the toilet to flush
again an hour later. Id.
allege that the policy of not permitting them to flush the
toilet any time they choose subjects them to harsh odors and
the possibility of contracting unidentified illnesses. Compl.
at 8. They allege that inmates who have jobs in the unit are
confined in cells with no limit on the number of times the
toilet may be flushed during a five-minute period.
Id. at 8-9.
weekly basis, prison staff members allegedly provide the
plaintiffs with a liquid solution and other supplies to clean
their cells. Compl. at 9. The plaintiffs complain that the
cleaning supplies are passed through the same slot or
“trap” in their cell doors that are also used to
pass food trays through at meal times. Id. at 9-10.
They allege that this practice potentially exposes them to
contaminated food. Id. at 10.
September 9, 2016, Mr. Harvin and Mr. Hutton, who were
cellmates, allegedly reported that they needed to use the
toilet, but could not flush the toilet in their cell. Compl.
at 10. Officers allegedly denied the requests by Mr. Harvin
and Mr. Hutton to use another toilet or to re-set the toilet
in their cell. Id. at 10-11. Mr. Harvin used the
toilet in the cell and he and his cellmate were allegedly
subjected to the odors of feces and urine for approximately
an hour and forty-five minutes. Id.
further allege that there are allegedly only five working
showers available to the approximately fifty inmates housed
in the O-Pod housing unit at MacDougall. Compl. at 11. On
September 9, 2016, Mr. Ramos attempted to use a shower on the
upper tier of the housing unit. Id. An officer
allegedly warned Mr. Ramos that the shower was off limits to
all inmates except inmates who worked on the tier.
Id. at 11-12. On September 10, 2016, Mr. Ramos
submitted an inmate request regarding this matter.
Id. An officer confirmed that the upper tier shower
could only be used by inmates who worked on the tier.
September 13, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., the water supply
to MacDougall was allegedly shut down. Compl. at 12. During
this time period, inmates were allegedly told to use portable
sanitation units that were placed in the recreation yards.
Id. at 12-13. Mr. Harvin alleges that, when he was
allowed to use the portable toilet, a correctional officer
would not permit him to bring soap with him to sanitize the
toilet. Id. There was allegedly no anti-bacterial
soap in the toilet stall. Id.
using the toilet, Mr. Harvin noticed that it had not, he
alleges, been serviced in thirty-seven days. Compl. at 12-13.
Mr. Harvin alleges that the toilet had not been serviced in a
timely manner and that the number of inmates using the toilet
exceeded the number recommended by the company that owned the
toilet, Royal Flush. Id.
than in the caption of the complaint and description of the
parties, one of the Plaintiffs, Mr. Woolfolk, is not
otherwise mentioned in the body of the complaint. All four
Plaintiffs claim that the Defendants have allegedly violated
their Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. They seek
monetary damages. Compl. at 7.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court will explain below, the primary issue as to the
allegations in the Complaint is whether Plaintiffs have met
the administrative exhaustion requirement of the PLRA.
Because, however, Plaintiffs also bring certain claims for
which the lack of administrative exhaustion is less clear,
the Court will also review certain claims to determine
whether they state a claim.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 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. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A. Under 28 U.S.C § 1915(e)(2), when a
plaintiff proceeds in forma pauperis, then
“the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the
court determines that . . . the action . . . fails to state a
claim on which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C §
reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court must
“liberally construe [the] pleadings, ” and
interpret the complaint to “raise the strongest
arguments it suggests.” Abbas v. Dixon, 480
F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007); see also Tracy v.
Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-03 (2d Cir. 2010)
(discussing special solicitude that courts ought to show to
pro se litigants). Although detailed allegations are
not required, the complaint must still 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 v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not
sufficient. See 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.
Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) requires
prisoners to exhaust administrative remedies before filing a
federal lawsuit related to prison conditions. See 42
U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (“No action shall be brought
with respect to prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. §
1983], or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in
any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such
administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted.”). The administrative remedies available to
inmates incarcerated by the State of Connecticut Department
of Correction (“DOC”) are set forth in
Administrative Directive 9.6, entitled Inmate Administrative
Remedies, effective August 15, 2013. See State of
Connecticut Department of Correction, Administrative
Directive 9.6: Inmate Administrative Remedies (2013),
http://www.ct.gov/doc/LIB/doc/PDF/AD/ ad0906.pdf. As
the Court explained in its previous order, these procedures
generally take at least 75 business days to fully exhaust,
due to the amount of time that the DOC has to respond at each
stage of the procedure. See Order at 1-5.
exhaustion requirement applies to “all inmate suits
about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances
or particular episodes.” Porter v. Nussle, 534
U.S. 516, 532 (2002). Exhaustion of all available
administrative remedies must occur regardless of whether the
administrative procedures provide the relief that the inmate
seeks. See Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741
(2001) (“[W]e think that Congress has mandated
exhaustion clearly enough, regardless of the relief offered
through administrative procedures.”). Furthermore,
prisoners must comply with all procedural rules regarding the
grievance process before commencing an action in federal
court. See Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90-91, 93
(2006) (proper exhaustion requires “using all steps
that the agency holds out and doing so properly” and
“demands compliance with agency deadlines and other
critical procedural rules”).
the exhaustion process after a federal action has been filed
does not, therefore, satisfy the exhaustion requirement.
See Neal v. Goord, 267 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2001)
(“To begin, the plain language of § 1997e(a),
providing that no action shall be brought until such
administrative remedies as are available are exhausted,
suggests that exhaustion prior to commencement of a §
1983 action is mandated.”) (internal quotation marks
omitted). “[C]ourts must take care not to frustrate the
policy concerns underlying § 1997e(a) by allowing
inmate-plaintiffs to file or proceed with lawsuits before
exhausting administrative remedies.” Id.
circumstances do not excuse an inmate's failure to meet
the exhaustion requirement. Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct.
1850, 1858 (2016) (“The PLRA's history (just like
its text) thus refutes a “special circumstances”
exception to its rule of exhaustion.”). An inmate's
failure to exhaust administrative remedies is only excusable
if administrative remedies are, in fact, unavailable. See
Id. (“[T]he PLRA contains its own, textual
exception to mandatory exhaustion. Under § 1997e(a), the
exhaustion requirement hinges on the ‘availability'
of administrative remedies.”) (internal quotation marks
Court's December 9, 2016 Order noted that the Complaint
did not specifically allege that any of the Plaintiffs
exhausted their available administrative remedies before
filing this case. See Order at 7-8. Furthermore, the Court
noted that, given that all of the specific events in the
Complaint allegedly occurred between September 9, 2016 and
September 13, 2016, while Plaintiffs signed the Complaint
between September 12, 2016 and September 15, 2016, Plaintiffs
likely could not have exhausted their administrative
remedies, a process that would likely take 75 business days.
Id. The Court's order therefore directed each
Plaintiff to respond, within twenty days, regarding whether
he had exhausted his administrative remedies as required by
Woolfolk filed two documents in response to the Court's
previous order. One document, which Mr. Woolfolk signed on
December 20, 2016, and which the Court filed on December 29,
2016, indicated that, “[h]onestly there was no attempt
to exhaust administrative remedies, ” allegedly because
Mr. Harvin had told him that “in Federal Courts there
was no need to exhaust remedies, ” and stated that Mr.
Woolfolk “apologize[d] for wasting the [C]ourt's
time, [and] resources.” ECF No. 36. Mr. Woolfolk also
filed a motion for extension of time to exhaust his
administrative remedies, which Mr. Woolfolk signed on
December 15, 2016, and which the Court filed on January 3,
2016. ECF No. 35. The motion for an extension of time ...