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Torrez v. Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 1, 2017




         Jose Anthony Torrez, currently confined at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, filed a complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging his conditions of confinement as a pretrial detainee. The defendants are the Department of Correction, Scott Semple, Monica Rinaldi, William Mulligan, Carol Chapdelaine, Giuliana Mudano, Craig Burns, Colleen Gallagher, Brian Libel, Mark A. Frayne, Dr. Yesu, Gerald G. Gagne, Jr., and Gregorio Robles. Torrez's complaint was received on July 21, 2017, and his motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on July 25, 2017.

         Under section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, I 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. 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 plausible right to relief. Bell Atlantic 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 “[p]ro 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).

         I. Allegations

         Defendants Semple and Rinaldi, respectively, are the Commissioner and Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Correction. Defendant Mulligan was the Warden at Northern Correctional Institution (“Northern”). Defendants Chapdelaine and Mudano, respectively, were the Warden and Acting Deputy Warden at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MacDougall”). Dr. Burns is the Director of Clinical Services with regard to psychiatry for the Department of Correction. Defendant Gallagher is the Director of the Americans with Disabilities Act for the Department of Correction. Defendant Libel is a Health Services Administrator. Drs. Frayne and Yesu are psychiatrists employed at Northern and MacDougall, respectively. Dr. Gagne is a medical doctor employed at Northern. Captain Robles is a custodial officer at Northern.

         Torrez is classified as seriously mentally ill. He suffers from bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and conduct disorder. He has taken mental health medication and undergone therapy to address these conditions since childhood. Torrez also has engaged in acts of mania and has attempted suicide.

         In February 2016, while he was a pretrial detainee, Torres was transferred to Northern. He was then transferred to Cheshire Correctional Institution in September 2016, and then to MacDougall in January 2017, when Phases 2 and 3 of the Administrative Segregation Program were transferred to MacDougall. Northern is a maximum security, level 5, facility. Although MacDougall is a level 4 facility, the B-1 housing unit is used as a maximum security unit. There are no mental health units at either facility.

         Torrez has been confined in Administrative Segregation at both Northern and MacDougall. Administrative Segregation can involve extended periods of solitary confinement that entail social isolation and reduced environmental stimulation. In Phase 1 of Administrative Segregation, inmates are confined in a small sensory deprivation cell for 23 hours per day. They eat all meals in the cell. Inmates are removed from the cell for one hour of recreation per day and showers three times per week. Inmates are placed in full restraints any time they leave their cells. They are denied contact visits and are limited to one 15-minute telephone call per week. Inmates are denied work assignments and cannot participate in congregate programs. They are permitted only limited property and have restricted use of sinks and toilets.

         Torrez has been confined in Administrative Segregation for over a year. He was in phase 1 for most of the time he was at Northern. Torrez alleges that defendant Gagne sexually harassed him by forcing him to exit his cell and speak with Dr. Gagne one-on-one at Northern.

         Torrez has received disciplinary sanctions as a result of behavior that is caused by his mental illness. Those sanctions include placement in punitive segregation, denial of visitation and telephone privileges, placement on in-cell restraint status, placement on behavioral observation status, and exposure to excessive amounts of chemical agent during cell extractions. In many instances, the defendants did not attempt mental health interventions before using discipline or punishment.

         Dr. Frayne has watched Torrez attempt to commit suicide without calling a code and instead placed Torrez on behavior observation status with no one watching him or providing mental health treatment.

         Torrez has not been provided adequate mental health care at Northern or MacDougall. The defendants failed to ensure these facilities are adequately staffed with mental health providers so the inmates can receive proper mental health treatment. They also have not trained custodial staff to properly deal with mentally ill inmates.

         Defendants Libel, Burns, Yesu, Frayne and Gagne have failed to develop an adequate mental health plan for Torrez. They have not provided him with psychotherapy. Despite documentation from the community, defendants Frayne and Gagne claim that the plaintiff is manipulating his illness. Torrez alleges that he should have been confined at Garner Correctional Institution (“Garner”).

         The conditions of confinement have exacerbated Torrez' mental illness and caused him to suffer physical injury. He experiences racing thoughts, fear for his safety, loss of sleep, and extreme anxiety attacks. Torrez has engaged in self-harm in the form of beatings by custodial staff, and has attempted suicide. All defendants had access to Torrez' mental health records and, thus, were aware of his mental health needs. In addition, Torrez repeatedly informed the defendants about his conditions.

         II. ...

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