United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
Charles S. Haight, Jr. Senior United States District Judge.
Plaintiff, Lazale Ashby, is currently incarcerated at
Northern Correctional Institution ("Northern"). He
has filed a Complaint [Doc. 1] under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against District Administrator Angel Quiros, Commissioner
Scott Semple, Wardens William Mulligan and Faneuff (or
"Fane Duff"), Unit Manager Gregorio Robles, and
Deputy Commissioners Cheryl Capelak (or Cepelak) and Monica
Rinaldi. The Court has subjected the pleading to the
mandatory statutory review. For the reasons set forth below,
the complaint will be dismissed in part.
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.
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). 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).
Court will apply the foregoing standards in conducting its
initial review of any claims asserted by Ashby. The Court
begins with a recitation of the factual allegations contained
in the pleading.
factual allegations, accepted as true only for the purposes
of this Order, are taken from the numbered paragraphs at
pages 2-15 of the Complaint [Doc. 1], as well as the Exhibits
to that filing.
March 29, 2010, Plaintiff was confined in a cell on death row
at Northern. ¶ 13. On that day Captain Jason
Cahill was involved in an altercation with another death row
inmate. ¶ 12, Ex. A. Following the altercation, prison
officials at Northern imposed a lockdown of the death row
unit. ¶ 14. Captain Cahill supervised a strip search of
Plaintiff as well as a search of Plaintiff s cell and the
confiscation of items of Plaintiff s personal property.
the lockdown, prison staff placed Plaintiff on full restraint
status. ¶ 16. Under this status, prison officials placed
handcuffs, leg shackles and tether chain around Plaintiffs
waist every time he left his cell. Id. Plaintiff has
been on this indefinite restraint status ever since. The new
restraint policy was memorialized on April 5, 2010, by
Defendant Quiros, who was then Warden of Northern, in a
policy recommendation memorandum. See Ex. A,
"Death Row Restraint Policy Recommendation." The
policy requires death row inmates to be placed either in
handcuffs, leg shackles and a tether chain or just handcuffs
behind their backs every time prison staff escorted them from
their cells. Ex. A.
notice was given, nor was any hearing was held before prison
officials imposed the new restraint status on Plaintiff.
¶ 19. That status is indefinite. Id. There is
no process pursuant to which Plaintiff may challenge the
restraint status or be relieved from the status. ¶ 20.
After implementation of the restraint policy, prison
officials installed "traps" in the doors of the
dayrooms in the death row unit to enable officers to remove
inmates' handcuffs while the inmates used the dayrooms.
to the imposition of the new restraint policy, Plaintiff held
a job as a tierman/janitor in the death row unit, for which
he received "Level Two" pay, or $1.25 per day.
¶¶ 27-29. After the imposition of the restraint
policy, he was removed from his tierman position .
¶¶ 27, 29. Plaintiffs tierman job was
replaced with "Level One" pay of $0.75 per day.
¶ 30. Defendants continue to provide Plaintiff with
Level One pay, for unspecified work responsibilities, because
Defendants believe they are required, by Connecticut law, to
provide work assignments for death row inmates whose cases
remain on direct appeal. ¶ 30. Plaintiffs direct appeal
remains pending. ¶ 31.
has made verbal and written requests to remedy the restraint
policy and employment issues. ¶ 36. He has also filed
grievances regarding the change in his job assignment and the
imposition of the restraint policy, which grievances have
been denied. ¶ 37; Exs. I-L. Death row inmate Joseph
Rizzo has been permitted to continue his employment. ¶
the seven months prior to the filing of this complaint, the
State of Connecticut resentenced two other death row inmates,
Russell Peeler, Jr. and Sedgwick Cobb, pursuant to the
abolition of the death penalty in Connecticut. ¶¶
38-39. After resentencing, Peeler and Cobb were no longer
subject to the out-of-cell restraint policy. ¶ 38. In
addition, prison officials permit Peeler and Cobb to engage
in recreational activities for two extra hours a week and to
use all of the equipment in the prison gym. ¶¶
44-47 They are also eligible for prison jobs that pay a
higher wage. ¶49.
PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS FOR RELIEF
contends that the Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment
right to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment and his
Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due
process, as well as his purported right to employment under
C.G.S. § 18-10a, and his right to equal protection under
the Connecticut Constitution. He seeks declaratory and
injunctive relief and monetary damages.
Eighth Amendment Claim
alleges that the requirement that he be placed in restraints
every time he leaves his cell, and the refusal of prison
officials to allow him to work, constitute punishment in
violation of the Eighth Amendment bar on cruel and unusual
Supreme Court has held that prisoners have no right to be
housed in comfortable surroundings. See Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1980) (harsh or restrictive
conditions are part of the penalty criminal offenders pay for
their crimes). A prisoner's conditions of confinement,
however, must meet "minimal civilized measures of
life's necessities." Wilson v. Seiter, 501
U.S. 294, 298 (1991). This means that prison officials are
required to provide for inmates' basic human needs -
"e.g., food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and
reasonable safety." DeShaney v. Winnebago Cty.
Dep't of Social Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 200 (1989).
state an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim, an
inmate must establish first, that a prison official denied
him "the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
834 (1994) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
Second, the inmate must show that the official acted with
subjective "deliberate indifference to [his] health or
safety" because the official knew that the inmate
"face[d] a substantial risk of serious harm and
disregard[ed] that risk by failing to take reasonable
measures to abate it." Id. at 834, 847
(internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
has not alleged that the requirement that he be placed in
handcuffs and leg restraints every time he leaves his cell
deprives him of one of life's necessities. He concedes
that he is not confined in restraints when he is in his cell
or when he spends time in the dayroom. In addition, the
notice attached to the complaint regarding the restraint
policy states that restraints will be removed when an inmate
showers, recreates, engages in social visits and telephone
calls and uses the dayroom. See Compl., Ex. A.
conclusory statements on pages of the complaint, Plaintiff
asserts that the restraint policy subjects him to
"wanton infliction of pain." Compl. ¶¶
58, 61. These unsupported statements do not state a plausible
claim that the restraint policy has compromised
Plaintiff's health or safety or otherwise deprived him of
his basic human needs. See Branham v. Meachum, 77
F.3d 626, 631 (2d Cir. 1996) (affirming dismissal of Eighth
Amendment claim regarding plaintiff's placement on full
restraint status because condition was not unduly harsh and
inmate did not assert facts to suggest that prison officials
were deliberately indifferent to his health or safety);
Vallade v. Fischer, No. 12-CV-231M, 2012 WL 4103864,
at *3 (W.D.N.Y. Sept. 13, 2012) ("It is well-established
that handcuffing an inmate is a regular incident of prison
life which does not per se violate the Eighth
Amendment."); Graham v. Fries, No.