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Townsend v. Sweet

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 30, 2019

CHRISTOPHER SWEET, et al., Defendants.



         On April 18, 2019, Timothy Townsend, Jr., an inmate currently confined at the Carl Robinson Correctional Institution (“CRCI”) in Enfield, Connecticut, brought a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against ten Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”) officials: Christopher Sweet, R. Kudzul, Christopher Muckle, B. Stadalnik, Jefferey Conger, Captain Griffin, Disciplinary Report (“DR”) Investigator Nemeth, DR Investigator Gottlieb, Correction Officer Rodriguez-Jimenez, and Bruce Richardson. Compl., Doc. No. 1. Townsend seeks monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief against the defendants in their individual capacities for violating his rights under the United States Constitution, Connecticut Constitution. See Id. at 36-41. For the following reasons, his complaint is dismissed in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 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).

         II. Factual Allegations

         Townsend alleges the following facts. On April 14, 2016, Townsend was transferred from Osborn Correctional Institution's restrictive housing unit (“RHU”) to the RHU at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center (“Corrigan”) to complete the remaining portion of his punitive segregation time that he was ordered to serve while at Osborn. Compl. ¶¶ 12-13. Upon his arrival, Officer Kudzal presented Townsend with a Property Inventory Form and a Property Status Receipt, but Townsend refused to sign the forms because several of his personal belongings were not listed. Id. at ¶¶ 14-15. Such items included food and personal cosmetics, which are frequently lost or stolen during facility transfers. Id. at ¶ 16. Kudzal became upset when Townsend refused to sign the forms and told him that it was “a bad move.” Id. at ¶ 17.

         After he refused to sign the form, Lieutenant Stadalnik told Townsend that he was going to escort him to RHU. Compl. ¶ 18. Townsend then asked Stadalnik and Kudzul for a “seg-bag, ” which is a bag containing two pairs of boxers, two pairs of socks, two T-shirts, one pair of shower shoes, one washcloth, one towel, and other hygiene items that is provided to all inmates upon admission into RHU. Id. at ¶ 19. Stadalnik told Townsend that he would have to write an inmate request to receive a seg-bag because they are made from the inmate's personal property. Id. at ¶ 20. Townsend told Stadalnik that he had all of the items to form a seg-bag, but Stadalnik and Kudzul refused to provide him with one. Id. at ¶¶ 21-23. Townsend later wrote inmate requests to Kudzal, Stadalnik, Officer Muckle, Officer Sweet, and Lieutenant Conger regarding his seg-bag, but none of them responded. Id. at ¶ 25.

         The next day, while in RHU, Townsend told Conger that he had not been provided with a seg-bag, shower shoes, or clean clothes upon his placement in the RHU. Compl. ¶ 26. Conger directed Townsend to a written memorandum posted in every RHU cell window, which stated that “seg-bags are a cou[r]tesy and [are] provided at the convenience of the property officer.” Id.

         Corrigan officials offered Townsend a shower on April 15, 2016 but told him that he needed to use “community clothing, ” which is rotated amongst the inmates in the RHU. Compl. ¶ 27. Townsend refused to wear the used clothing, including the used underwear. Id. at ¶ 28. He used the shower, but he was forced to use the “community” shower shoes even though they had not been cleaned. Id. at ¶ 29. The shoes were wet, soggy, sticky, and stained with foreign substances. Id. at ¶ 30. Townsend told Conger that forcing the inmates to share the shower shoes put them at risk of contracting serious illnesses, especially since inmates could only shave while in the shower. Id. at ¶ 31. Indeed, when Townsend went to shower, he saw blood on the walls and floor and hair clogging the floor drain, which caused the contaminated water to rise above his feet. Id. at ¶ 33. Those conditions caused Townsend to suffer anxiety, but he knew that, if he did not shower, he could be issued a DR for failing to maintain his own personal hygiene. Id. at ¶ 32. After he showered, he was forced to put on the same clothing without underwear because he had not been provided with a clean set of clothing. Id. at ¶ 35.

         Corrigan was reported in 2008 as housing several inmates who had contracted MRSA, but they told the inmates that their infections were caused by spider bites. Compl. ¶ 65. Inmates, many of whom had open wounds, often showered in their bare feet, which increased the risk of spreading infection. Id. at ¶ 67.

         Inmates in the RHU at Corrigan are typically allowed to shower three days per week. Compl. ¶ 34. However, on April 17, Townsend completed his RHU time but was not able to shower. Id. at ¶ 36. After his release from RHU, an official told him that he would receive his personal property the next day, but on April 18, Townsend did not receive his property. Id. at ¶ 37. He asked a correction officer if he could call the property room officer and inquire about his property because he did not have items with which to shower and, thus, had not been able to shower in three days. Id. at ¶ 38. The correction officer called the property officer who informed him that Townsend would receive his property the next day, April 19. Id. at ¶ 39. Townsend asked the correction officer if he could retrieve some hygiene products so that he could shower and brush his teeth, but the officer told him that he did not have any hygiene products to give to him. Id. at ¶ 41.

         On April 19, Townsend again asked a correction officer to inquire about his property. Compl. ¶ 45. The officer called the property room officers who again stated that Townsend would receive his property the following day, April 20. Id. Townsend told the correction officer that he had not been able to shower or brush his teeth since April 15, but the officer told Townsend that he had to wait to receive his property because he refused to sign the inventory form upon his admission at Corrigan. Id. at ¶¶ 45-46. Townsend asked the officer for the name of the official with whom he spoke and to call a supervisor, but the officer refused. Id. at ¶ 47.

         Townsend later spoke with Correction Counselor McMahon and asked her if she could provide him with a care package, which consists of soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and other hygiene products. Compl. ¶ 48. He explained to her that he had not been able to shower or brush his teeth since April 15. Id. McMahon denied his request for a care package, stating that Townsend was not indigent and could purchase the items through commissary. Id. However, if Townsend purchased the items through commissary, he would have to wait two to three weeks to receive his order, depending on when officials took his order form. Id. at ¶ 49.

         Townsend then spoke with Captain Griffin regarding his inability to receive his hygiene products and his legal property. Compl. ¶ 51. Griffin ordered Townsend to step away from her because of the offensive odor that was emanating from him. Id. at ¶ 52. Griffin then took Townsend to her office and ordered him to stand outside in the doorway while she called the property room to inquire about his property. Id. at ¶ 53. After the phone call, Griffin told Townsend that officials were going to perform a shakedown of his cell because she was informed that he had been issued a seg-bag while in RHU. Id. at ¶ 54. Townsend told Griffin that the property room officers were misleading her, but Griffin picked up the phone and ordered two correction officers to search Townsend's cell. Id. The officers later called back and told Griffin that Townsend had nothing in his cell except linens. Id. at ¶ 55. Griffin then became upset, called the property room again, and told them, “You lied to me, this man doesn't have anything in his cell to shower with[.] [T]herefore, he was not given a seg-bag while in RHU.” Id. at ¶ 56. Griffin instructed the property room officer to provide Townsend with everything he needed to shower. Id.

         After Griffin hung up the phone, Townsend asked her why she had only ordered the property room to provide him with shower products and not his other property. Compl. ¶ 57. Griffin told him that she could only procure the shower items at this time and that he would receive his other property the next day, April 20. Id. at ¶ 58. She advised him to “just sign the inventory this time.” Id.

         After meeting with Griffin, Townsend went to the property room to retrieve his shower items. Compl. ¶ 62. There, he met with Officer Sweet, who informed him that all of the items that Griffin ordered were on the counter. Id. As he inspected the items on the counter, Townsend noticed that there were no shower shoes. Id. at ¶ 63. He asked Sweet to provide a pair, but Sweet told him that there were not any shower shoes in the property room to give to him. Id. Townsend told Sweet that he could give him the same pair of shower shoes that were in his property box and that, without them, he would be unable to shower safely. Id. at ¶ 64. Sweet refused to provide him with the shoes, stating that the items on the counter were all that Griffin told him to provide. Id. at ¶ 68. Townsend requested to speak with a supervisor, but Sweet told him that “the lieutenant comes with a ticket.” Id. at ¶¶ 68-69. Townsend insisted anyway, and Sweet called Lieutenant Stadalnik. Id. at ¶ 70.

         When Stadalnik arrived, he asked Sweet why he would not simply retrieve Townsend's shower shoes from his property box. Compl. ¶ 70. Visibly upset, Sweet told Stadalnik that he had provided all of the items that Griffin had instructed him to provide. Id. Townsend said that he was present when Griffin called Sweet and heard her instruct Sweet to provide him with everything he needed to shower. Id. at ¶ 71. Townsend then told Stadalnik that the items on the counter were not sufficient to permit him to shower. Id. at ¶ 75. Stadalnik then told Townsend to wait until the next day to receive his property and instructed him to return to his housing unit. Id. at ¶¶ 76-77. Before he exited the property room, Townsend told the officials that he was being denied his basic human needs and that another inmate named McKiethen who was released from RHU on the same day had been given his property, to which Sweet responded, “[N]ext time, sign the property inventory form.” Id. at ¶ 78. Townsend then left the room taking only the toothpaste and toothbrush, as the remaining items were of no use to him. Id. at ¶ 79.

         Later that day, Sweet issued Townsend a DR for disobeying a direct order. Compl. ¶ 80. The DR stated the following:

On 4/19/16, I/M Townsend . . . was summoned to the property room in order to be issued a care package and change of clothes so that he could remain compliant with hygiene protocol. Upon receiving the items issued to him, inmate Townsend was not happy with the transaction and refused to return to his housing unit. This officer issued multiple direct orders to I/M Townsend to return to his housing unit, to which he did not comply. This officer then requested a supervisor to report to the property room where I/M Townsend then capitulated and returned to his unit.

Id. at ¶ 81. Before his hearing on the DR, Townsend submitted a number of documents to use as evidence in his defense, but Investigator Nemeth “omitted” them from the hearing. Id. at ¶ 82. Townsend's advocate, Officer Dumas, refused to question any witnesses because Nemeth told him that the “investigation was over.” Id. at ¶ 83. Nemeth also refused to provide Townsend or Dumas with copies of all the documentary evidence that had already been submitted for disposition of the DR. Id. at ¶ 84-85.

         Townsend was again placed in RHU on April 21, 2016 pending a protective custody assignment due to an assault involving Corrigan staff in January 2015.[1] Compl. ¶ 87. For several days therein, correction officers repeatedly called Townsend a snitch and tampered with his food. Id. at ¶ 145. Townsend informed Lieutenant Conger about those actions, but Conger dismissed his complaint as “unsubstantiated, ” even when Townsend asked him to review the video footage showing that he was being denied meals. Id. On May 4, 2016, Townsend was transferred from Corrigan to Enfield Correctional ...

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