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Currytto v. Doe

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 9, 2019

KEVIN W. CURRYTTO, Plaintiff,
v.
DOE, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER PURSUANT TO 28U.S.C.§1915A

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

          Plaintiff Kevin Currytto is a sentenced prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction. He has filed this action pro se and in forma pauperis alleging that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his nutritional needs, discriminated against him on the basis of his disabilities, and retaliated against him for attempting to protect his rights.

         After an initial review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court concludes that Currytto's claims for a violation of the Eighth Amendment, the First Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Rehabilitation Act, and state law negligence may proceed against some of the defendants.

         Background

         Currytto is incarcerated at Osborn Correctional Institution. He has amended his complaint several times. See Docs. #14, #16, #18, #21, and #23. The operative complaint now names the Connecticut Department of Correction (“the Department”) and 37 corrections officials in their individual and official capacities: Commissioner Scott Semple, Wardens Fanueff and Wright, Counselor Supervisors Long and Derby, Captains Chapdelaine and Manning, Lieutenants Grimaldi and Maeli, District Administrator Angel Quiros, Officers Nothie, Horn, Talaga, Eason, Acanto, Moore, Peart, Morgenstein, Sanchez, Williams, Cyr, Grant, and Murphy, and social worker Matthew Clarke, along with four John Doe lieutenants, one John Doe warden, seven John Doe officers, and one John Doe captain. Doc. #23. Currytto seeks damages and injunctive relief. Id. at 7, 53.

         The following facts as alleged in the operative complaint are accepted as true only for purposes of this ruling. On September 26, 2017, Currytto was transferred to Osborn Correctional Institution and placed in the “G” block mental health unit (MHU). Doc. #23 at 9. Currytto suffers from a delusional disorder, schizoaffective-depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and a substance abuse disorder. Id. at 9-10, 68 (medical records). He remained in MHU until December 27, 2017, when he was transferred to the general population unit and then to the addiction services unit, called “J” unit. He was transferred out of J unit temporarily due to discipline issues, then returned to the unit on June 16, 2018. Id. at 31-32. J unit is designed to “promot[e] change through a[] highly structured and disciplined framework, ” and requires a higher level of compliance from inmates than other units. Id. at 34-35.

         First in MHU and then in J unit, Currytto was given less than five minutes to eat most of his meals. From September 27 to November 11, 2017, MHU was the last unit to enter the dining hall, and Currytto and other inmates in the unit were allowed only five minutes to eat their lunch and dinner. Id. at 29. This policy for inmates on the MHU was “corrected” by the defendants on November 11, 2017. Id. at 30. Yet again from June 16 to October 24, 2018, while he was in the J Unit, Currytto's unit ate last and he was again subject to a policy that allowed him only a few minutes to eat lunch and dinner. Id. at 35. Being last to eat meant that he and the other inmates in his unit had only 2-5 minutes “to be served, seated and completed with [a] meal” before defendants called “mass movement” and began ushering inmates out of the dining hall. Id. at 42; see also Id. at 63-65 (declarations from two other inmates in J unit regarding mealtime practices). Currytto alleges that this “kickout” policy resulted in him regularly having to throw away unfinished meals. Ibid.; see also id. at 12, 17. Currytto successfully lobbied for the kickout practice to end when he was housed in MHU, only to find that J unit had simply been swapped into the last place meal slot. Id. at 29-30, 32, 41.

         Currytto has no upper or lower molars in his mouth and cannot eat quickly due to a choking hazard. Id. at 29; see also Id. at 67 (dental records showing missing teeth). Having so little time to eat prevented him from finishing his food and deprived him of adequate nutrition. Id. at 30, 43. He “experienced weight loss, fatigue, dizziness, hunger pains, [and] sleeplessness.” Id. at 31. The situation also caused him to develop digestive problems that require medication. The digestion problem “creates pain at his heart” and “aggravates his mental disability by creating delusional thinking about what['s] going on with his body.” Id. at 43. Having to eat so quickly also increased his anxiety. Id. at 45. On January 31, 2018, in between Currytto's time in MHU and J Unit, the prison doctor put him on a high calorie/high protein diet “to address his weight loss issues.” Id. at 31.

         Currytto alleges that Osborn's inmate handbook instructs inmates that “you will have 20 minutes to eat your meal, ” but that defendants “do not follow the[i]r own dining hall regulations.” Id. at 36; see also id. at 10. In allowing less time, Currytto alleges that the defendants are driven by self-interest, indifference, and/or gross negligence. Ibid. They “are attempting to cycle through housing units at dining hall in less time than the duty of feeding the population requires” in order to “ease the workday/shift/duty requirement of feeding the inmate population.” Id. at 44. Defendants “purposely placed the MHU with plaintiff as the last housing unit to be released for chow to the dining hall due to the fact that the MHU's population is disabled . . . manageable, yielding, malleable, decomposed, [and] deteriorated.” Id. at 13. Inmates in J unit were also an easy target for being forced to eat last. They are more compliant than inmates in other units because J unit has an enhanced rule structure and “it is easy to be removed from [the unit] due to non-compliance.” Id. at 40.

         Williams, Murphy, Grant, Morgenstein, Cyr, Peart, Sanchez, Nothie, Horn, Talaga, and John Doe Officers were posted in the dining hall and monitored inmates' meals, on a rotating basis according to duty assignments. Id. at 10-11, 23, 35-36. Grimaldi, Manning, Chapdelaine, Maeli, and/or John Doe Lieutenants were posted in the hallway outside the dining hall door, supervising the officers within. Id. at 11, 35-36. The officials stationed outside the door would “open security door and signal for inmate population within dining hall to ‘mass move, '” signaling the end of the meal, at which point the officers within would begin ushering inmates out of the dining hall. Id. at 11-12. “These defendants supervise or functionally operate” the meal procedures, including the feeding of inmates and the timing of the end of the meal. Id. at 36. Currytto alleges that Wright and Quiros were “on notice of the dining hall issue . . . and failed to make necessary adjustments.” Id. at 34, 41. Between May and July 2018, Currytto saw them observing dining hall operations through the window. Id. at 34.

         Inmates in other units were not subjected to the kickout practice. While Currytto “attempt[ed] to eat his meal in 2-5 minutes, ” “[o]ther housing units in dining hall are given adequate time to complete meals, have eaten, socialized, deposited empty trays at scullery, returned to tables and are awaiting for the security door to open” signaling the end of the meal. Id. at 43-44. Other units get “15 minutes or more” to eat, ibid, but Currytto was deprived of the benefits “of the nutritional program offered to the inmate population because of his mental disability, impairment, and housing in a[] mental health unit.Id. at 21. Currytto also alleges that MHU inmates were forced to wear a “half light blue/half pink identification badge” that is “designed to indicate that the wearer of the badge/I.D. is ‘off,' ‘impaired,' [and] ‘disabled.'” Id. at 26-27.

         Currytto alleges that he made several attempts to stop the kickout practice and was retaliated against for doing so. Id. at 7. On October 12, 2017, he told Murphy, who was posted in the dining hall, that he was “not being allowed to complete his meals.” Id. at 18; see also id. 16-17. Murphy told him to “tell them when you get out, ” referring to Grimaldi, who was stationed outside the dining hall supervising the meal. Id. at 18. Another officer, Grant, overheard the conversation and stated “oh, this is the spokesperson for [MHU] in a[] humiliating and guarded manner.” Id. at 19. Currytto felt he was being discriminated against, and that calling him a “spokesperson” was identifying him as a security risk group member or threatening discipline. Id. at 19-20. Williams and “2 or 3” other John Doe corrections officers witnessed the exchange, and their presence and laughter made Currytto feel threatened. Id. at 19-20. Grimaldi was in the vicinity while this happened but “failed to act in any manner to determine what was taking place . . . or what the plaintiff was complaining about.” Id. at 23.

         Currytto next spoke with Matthew Clarke, a social worker and his therapist within the unit. Id. at 23. Currytto told Clarke about the problem but Clarke took no action to address it. That same day, Currytto filed an administrative remedy request, which a John Doe officer forwarded to Counselor Supervisor Long, who forwarded it to Captain Chapdelaine. Neither of them fixed the problem. Id. at 24.

         On October 29, 2017, while his administrative remedy request was being processed, Officer Cyr ordered Currytto to leave the dining hall “in an affrontive and disgruntled manner” even though other inmates in his unit were still seated and eating. Id. at 25-26. Grant was at the door and closed it on Currytto as he attempted to exit. Id. at 26-27. Currytto alleges that Grant and Cyr were punishing him for filing a grievance.

         Following this incident, Currytto filed a second administrative request with Long, alleging that Grant and Cyr were targeting him for his past complaints. Id. at 28. After he filed this request, “numerous officers, ” including Grant, Williams, Murphy, and “John Doe(s) 2 or more” began intimidating him while he walked down the hallway to and from the dining hall. They would stare at him, shake their keys, and call him a sex offender. Id. at 28. On September 8, 2018, after he had filed his complaint in federal court, Grimaldi stopped by J unit to “dig” him, and Grimaldi and Eason deliberately gave Currytto only two minutes to eat “in exchange for plaintiff filing [the] complaint.” Id. at 47.

         Currytto then filed various grievances that were processed by Derby, Moore, Acanto, Manning, Chapdelaine, Wright, and Quiros. Id. at 47-51. None of them intervened to fix the problem, and Quiros “reinterpreted the evidence submitted to him” in order to cover up “the practice failures in [the] dining hall.” Id. at 51.

         Currytto also alleges that Acanto, who is the prison's Freedom of Information Act officer, would not grant his requests for videos of mealtimes until he reduced the scope of his requests. Id. at 46, 50. Acanto told Currytto that his request to preserve the video footage of two weeks' worth of lunches and dinners was excessive and pressured him to limit the request, which he did. Id. at 46, 49. Acanto was attempting to “stage him out” and provide him with only the “bare minimum ability [] to prove his case of being denied food in the dining hall.” Ibid. Acanto has granted other inmates' video requests without claiming that the requests were excessive. Ibid.

         Finally, Currytto alleges that the kickout policy threatened his physical safety, as did the physical conditions in the dining hall. He states that defendants' practice of releasing up to three units worth of inmates from the dining hall at a time posed a safety hazard and violated the facility handbook, which states that “you must leave the dining hall ‘when your unit is called.'” Id. at 37 (emphasis in original). Currytto interprets the handbook to mean that only one unit may be called at a time. Id. at 37. There are also physical hazards in the dining hall: exposed lightbulbs with no safety shield covers, wet floors, holes in window screens that birds fly through, “dirty tables with a[] film of food bacteria on them, ” and a dishwasher that “doesn't heat water to temperature sufficient to sanitize food trays, ” among other problems. Id. at 44.

         Currytto claims that defendants violated his rights under the First and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Connecticut state law. He seeks monetary and injunctive relief.

         Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a prisoner's civil complaint against a governmental entity or governmental actors and “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the compliant, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” If the prisoner is proceeding pro se, the allegations of the ...


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