United States District Court, D. Connecticut
JAMES L. PENA, Plaintiff,
COOK, et al., Defendants.
ORDER RE AMENDED COMPLAINT
A. Dooley United States District Judge
James L. Pena (“Pena”), currently confined at
Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville,
Connecticut, filed this action pro se under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. On June 24, 2019, the Court filed an
Initial Review Order dismissing: all claims against defendant
Nemeth; the Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claims
which were not based on a failure to protect; the First
Amendment retaliation claims against defendants Santiago and
Maiga; the Fourth Amendment strip search claims; all claims
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985 and 1986; and state law
claims for negligence and false imprisonment. The Court
allowed the case to proceed on Pena's Eighth Amendment
claim for failure to protect and/or deliberate indifference
to safety against defendants Cook, Cocerrella, Cotta,
Michaud, and Papoosha. Doc. No. 10 at 15-16. The Court also
afforded Pena an opportunity to amend his complaint to
re-assert the conditions of confinement, retaliation and
strip search claims which were initially dismissed.
Id. at 16.
8, 2019, Pena filed an Amended Complaint adding two
defendants, Mental Health Worker J. Brennan and Dr. Gagne. He
asserts five claims: (1) all defendants subjected him to an
environment that placed him in harm and caused him to
experience physical and mental hardship; (2) defendants
Santiago, Maiga, and Brennan retaliated against him; (3)
defendants Cook, Cocerrella, Cotta, Maiga, Santiago, Michaud,
and Papoosha failed to protect him or were deliberately
indifferent to his safety; (4) defendants Gagne and Brennan
were deliberately indifferent to his mental health needs; and
(5) all defendants subjected him to false imprisonment by
confining him in a restrictive housing unit.
section 1915A of title 28 of the United States Code, 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. Id. In reviewing a pro se
complaint, the Court must assume the truth of the
allegations, and interpret them liberally to “raise the
strongest arguments [they] suggest.” Abbas v.
Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). see also
Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010)
(discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se
litigants). 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 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.
November 26, 2018, Pena was sentenced to a five-year term of
imprisonment on charges of sexual assault in the second
degree, violation of probation, possession of a firearm, and
assault on a public safety officer. Doc. No. 13, ¶ 21.
Two days later, he was transferred to a much more restrictive
housing unit at Walker Correctional Institution
(“Walker”). Id., ¶ 22. Pena
requested placement in protective custody (“PC”)
because he feared for his safety. Id., ¶ 23.
January 6, 2019, Pena was placed on “rec alone
status.” Pena considers this status similar to PC
within the Security Risk Group (“SRG”) block at
Walker. Pena alleges that he had been labeled a
“plate” because his conviction was for a sexual
offense and he was not an active gang member. Id.
February 4, 2019, Pena was transferred to Massachusetts on
pending drug charges. He was housed in general population
there for about three weeks. Id., ¶ 24. Pena
returned to Connecticut on February 25, 2019 and was placed
in a Restrictive Housing Unit (“RHU”) at Walker.
The placement was because Pena “never completed the
Program on my prior sentence.” In RHU, Pena was
required to undergo a strip search whenever he left his cell,
eat in his cell, and recreate outside in harsh weather. He
also was permitted only three phone calls per week. Pena was
required to endure these conditions even though he had no
disciplinary charges and no hearing. Id., ¶ 25.
told the unit manager at Walker about threats and extortion
attempts and requested PC placement. Pena was placed on rec
alone status for his safety. Id., ¶ 26. On
February 25, 2019, a mental health provider diagnosed Pena
with a mental health issue and prescribed medication.
Id., ¶ 27. Also in February 2019, Pena had a
“slight disputation” with defendants Maiga and
Santiago while they were touring his housing unit. During the
conversation Pena stated, “that's why I'm suing
your a**.” Id., ¶ 28.
March 28, 2019, Pena was removed from rec alone status and
transferred to Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center
(“Corrigan”). This was the facility where, on
November 14, 2018, Pena was assaulted by a member of the SRG
Bloods. Id., ¶ 29. Pena believes that
defendants Maiga and Santaigo removed him from rec alone
status and transferred him to Corrigan because they became
aware, during the “disputation” that Pena had
filed a lawsuit against them. Id., ¶ 31.
March 29, 2019, Pena submitted Inmate Requests to defendants
Cook, Papoosha, Michaud, Cocerrella, and Cotta stating that
his life was in danger because he was still labelled a
“plate.” He had received multiple threats at
Corrigan. Pena asked to be returned to Walker, placed on rec
alone status, or placed in PC. Id., ¶ 31 (the
second paragraph numbered 31). Only defendant Michaud
responded to the request. On April 2, 2019, defendant Michaud
stated, that he had reviewed surveillance footage and it
appeared that Pena was “socializing fine.” He
advised Pena to tell him if things changed. Id.
April 12, 2019, Pena submitted a second request to defendants
Cocerrella, Cotta, Michaud, and Cook stating that his life
was being threatened and he was being extorted. He reported
that gang members knew that he was a “plate, ”
was previously on rec alone status, and had a sex charge.
Correctional officers were verbally insulting and threatening
him. Pena said that it was only a matter of time before he
was assaulted again. He was afraid for his life and requested
PC placement or rec alone status to ...