United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
R. UNDERHILL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff, Jose Anthony Torrez ("Torrez"), was
formerly incarcerated at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional
Institution. He has filed a civil complaint under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities
Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.
regarding an incident that occurred in December 2014 at
Manson Youth Institution ("MYI"). He names
Commissioner Scott Semple, Warden John Alves, Deputy Warden
Thomas Hunt, Lieutenants Castro and Archer, and Correctional
Officers Todd Ketchum, Ruggiero, and Lis as defendants.
section 1915 A of Title 28 of the United States Code, I must
review prisoner civil complaints 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. 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
grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a
plausible right to relief. BellAtl. 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 "[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
alleges that he has been classified as a seriously mentally
ill individual. Compl., Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 12. He claims to
suffer from various mental health conditions including
bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder,
attention deficit disorder and hyperactive disorder. See
Id. at If 13. He has taken medication and has undergone
therapy to treat his disorders. See Id. at ¶
14. Torrez claims that he has engaged in "mania . . .
acts of self-harm associated with mental health" and
"has suicidal ideations." Id. at If 15. On
September 23, 2014, prison officials at MYI placed Torrez on
Behavior Observation Status for attempting to commit suicide.
See Id. at ¶ 37.
December 26, 2014, Torrez was standing in between cell eleven
and cell twelve of D-Cottage, A-Wing, when he observed a
physical altercation between two inmates. See Id. at
fflf 16, 20. As he watched the altercation, two inmates and
two pretrial detainees assaulted him. See Id. at 1|
Ketchum and Ruggiero stood by and watched the assault on
Torrez, but made no effort to intervene to assist Torrez.
See Id. at fflf 21-22. Eventually, Torrez was able
to flee from his attackers. See Id. at If 23. After
other prison officials responded to the scene of the
altercations, an official handcuffed Torrez. See Id.
at fflf 24-25. Torrez was "drenched in blood" and
his left eye was closed shut. Id. at ¶ 26.
Torrez suffered a laceration under his right eye, a hematoma
around his right eye and an abrasion to his elbow. See
Id. at ¶ 27.
claims that Commissioner Semple, Warden Alves, Deputy Warden
Hunt and Lieutenants Castro and Archer were aware of his
mental health conditions and should have housed him in
G-Cottage which was the mental health unit at MYI. See
Id. at ¶ 32. Four of the seven individuals involved
in the altercation were pretrial detainees. See Id.
at If 35. At the time of the altercation, Torrez was a
sentenced inmate. See Id. at ¶ 34.
Castro and Archer placed Torrez in administrative segregation
after the altercation and deprived him of his mail,
telephone, commissary and visiting privileges. See
Id. at ¶ 29. In addition, Torrez lost good time
credits. See Id. Torrez claims that if Lieutenants
Castro and Archer had viewed the video of the altercation,
they would have observed that he was only attempting to
defend himself from being assaulted and therefore should not
have been placed in segregation and should not have lost any
privileges. See Id. at If 30.
states that Officer Lis was a phone monitor at MYI. See
Id. at ¶ 31. Torrez suggests that if Lis had
listened carefully to telephone calls made by two of the
inmates who were participants in the altercation on December
26, 2014, he would have overheard the inmates discussing
conduct involving a risk of harm to other inmates and to the
security of MYI. See id.
asserts that he suffers from a mental health disability and
Commissioner Semple, Warden Alves, Deputy Warden Hunt and
Lieutenants Castro and Archer discriminated against him
because of his disability by subjecting him to punitive
segregation, assault, restrictive conditions of confinement
and denial of various privileges. See Id. at fflf
42-43. Torrez contends that the defendants have violated his
rights under the ADA by failing to place him in the
"most integrated setting appropriate for his
needs." Id. at ¶ 47. In addition, they
have violated his rights under the Connecticut Patients'
Rights Act. See Id. at ¶ 49.
states that during his 10-day confinement in punitive
segregation, officials denied him items of his property, use
of the mail and telephone and the opportunity for recreation.
He was confined in his cell for twenty-fours a day during
that period. See Id. at If 45. On January 6, 2015,
officials released him from punitive segregation and
transferred him to Cheshire Correctional Institution. See
Id. at ¶ 50. On January 30, 2015, prison officials
released Torrez from imprisonment. See Id. Torrez
made no effort to exhaust his administrative remedies
relating to his claims prior to his release from prison.
Section 1983 - Eighth Amendment Claims
generally asserts that the defendants violated his Eighth
Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
He claims that the defendants confined him under conditions
that exacerbated his mental health conditions and that the
defendants violated his right to be free from assault by
Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of "cruel and
unusual punishments." U.S. Const, amend. VIII. Although
the Constitution does not require "comfortable"
prison conditions, the Eighth Amendment imposes certain
duties on prison officials, to "ensure that inmates
receive adequate food, clothing, shelter and medical care,
and must take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of
the inmates." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
832-33 (1994) (internal quotation marks and citations
state a deliberate indifference to health or safety claim
under the Eighth Amendment, an inmate must demonstrate both
an objective and a subjective element. To meet the objective
element, an inmate must allege that he was incarcerated under
conditions that resulted in a "sufficiently
serious" deprivation, such as the denial of a
"life necessity[y]" or a "substantial risk
of serious harm." Id. at 834 (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). To meet the
subjective element, an inmate must allege that the defendant
prison officials possessed culpable intent, that is, the
officials knew that he faced a substantial risk to his health
or safety and disregarded that risk by failing to take
corrective action. See Id. at 834, 837. Thus, an
allegation of "mere negligen[t]" conduct is
insufficient. Id. at 835. Rather, the subjective
element requires that an inmate allege that prison officials
acted with "a mental state equivalent to subjective
recklessness, as the term is used in criminal law."
Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 280 (2d Cir.
indifference by prison officials to a prisoner's serious
medical or mental health needs constitutes cruel and unusual
punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. See
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Jareckv.
Hensley, 552 F.Supp.2d 261, 264 (D. Conn. 2008)
(applying Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference standard
to inmate's claim of denial of treatment for mental
health conditions); Atkins v. County of Orange, 372
F.Supp.2d 377, 408 (S.D.N.Y.2005) ("In the Second
Circuit, it is equally clear that psychiatric or mental
health care is an integral part of medical care and falls
under the rule laid out in Estelle which requires
that such care be provided to prisoners.") (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). To state a claim for
deliberate indifference to a serious medical or mental health
need, an inmate must meet a two-pronged test. Under the first
prong, an inmate must demonstrate that his or her medical or
mental health need was "sufficiently serious."
Salahuddin, 467 F.3d at 279. Factors relevant to the
seriousness of a medical condition include whether "a
reasonable doctor or patient would find [it] important and
worthy of comment, " whether the condition
"significantly affects an individual's daily
activities, " and whether it causes "chronic and
substantial pain." Chance v. Armstrong, 143
F.3d 698, 702 (2d Cir. 1998) (quotation marks omitted).
Subjectively, the defendant must have been actually aware of
a substantial risk that the inmate would suffer serious harm
as a result of his or her actions or inactions. See
Salahuddin, 467 F.3d at 279-80.
Failure to Protect Claim
generally asserts that the defendants disregarded a risk to
his safety by subjecting him to conditions of confinement
described in the complaint and failed to take any corrective
action. Specifically, Torrez contends that if defendant Lis,
who was a phone monitor at MYI in 2014, had paid more
attention to inmate telephone conversations, he would have
heard two inmates, who were involved in the altercation that
occurred on December 26, 2014, discussing "a potential
risk of harm to other inmates safety and the security of
[MYI]." Compl., Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 31. Torrez suggests
that if defendant Lis had performed his monitoring j ob
properly, the incident involving the altercation would not
have occurred. Torrez claims that defendants Ketchum and
Ruggiero were present during the altercation, but failed to
take any action to stop the altercation or assist him.
alleges that he sustained various injuries as a result of his
involvement in the altercation, including a laceration under
his eye and a hematoma near his eye. Torrez has plausibly
alleged that he was subjected to conditions that posed a
serious risk of harm to his health and safety. Thus, he has
met the objective prong of the Eighth Amendment.
stated that seven inmates, including himself, were involved
in the altercation on December 26, 2014. Telephone
conversations made by two inmates that occurred on
unidentified dates and involved discussions about "a
potential risk of harm to other inmates" are
insufficient, however, to have put defendant Lis on notice
that Torrez might be harmed in an altercation that involved
six other inmates on December 26, 2014. See Farmer,
511 U.S. at 838 ("an official's failure to alleviate
a significant risk that he should have perceived but did not,
while no cause for commendation, cannot under our cases be
condemned as the infliction of punishment"). Thus,
Torrez has not plausibly alleged that defendant Lis possessed
culpable intent in failing to determine from telephone
conversations of other inmates that he might be subject to
harm by those inmates ...