United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
February 11, 2019, Brenden Benway (“Plaintiff”),
then-incarcerated by the State of Connecticut at the
Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution
(“Corrigan”) in Uncasville, Connecticut, sued ten
Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”)
officials in their individual and official capacities:
Security Risk Group Coordinator John Aldi, Warden Stephen
Faucher, Lieutenant Russell, Hearing Officer King,
Corrections Officer Campbell, Lieutenant Kelly, Disciplinary
Investigator John Doe, Lieutenant Roberts, Lieutenant
Hartley, and Disciplinary Report Investigator Acevedo,
alleging multiple violations of his civil and constitutional
rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Complaint, ECF No. 1
(Feb. 11, 2019) (“Compl.”).
the Complaint was filed, Mr. Benway has twice moved for leave
to amend his Complaint. Motion for Leave to Amend, ECF No. 8
(Feb. 21, 2019) (“First Mot. To Amend”); Motion
for Leave to Amend, ECF No. 11 (Mar. 14, 2019) (“Second
Mot. To Amend”).
April 21, 2019, Mr. Benway notified the Court of his imminent
release from Corrigan. Notice of Change of Address, ECF No.
12 (Apr. 30, 2019).
April 30, 2019, Mr. Benway was released from state custody.
reasons explained below, the Court GRANTS
Mr. Benway’s motions to amend his Complaint,
DISMISSES his claims for injunctive and
declaratory relief as moot, and DISMISSES
his claims concerning excessive force, retaliation, and
religious freedom, without prejudice to re-filing, as they
were improperly joined.
Court will permit Mr. Benway’s First Amendment free
speech claim and Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process
claims to proceed against Corrections Officer Campbell,
Lieutenant Russell, and Hearing Officer King in their
individual capacities for damages, as well as Mr.
Benway’s Fourteenth Amendment conditions of confinement
claim to proceed against Lieutenant Kelly in that
officer’s individual capacity for damages.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
March of 2016, Corrections Officers Campbell and Russell
allegedly brought Mr. Benway, who had been confined at the
New Haven Correctional Center as a pretrial detainee, to the
Restrictive Housing Unit without notice. Compl. at 6.
Id. The officers allegedly told him that they
brought him there because they had found gang-related
photographs and colors on his Facebook page. Id.
Benway allegedly told the officers that the content of his
Facebook page was protected speech under the First Amendment,
but the officers allegedly dismissed him, saying, “What
do you think you are, a lawyer?” Id. Officer
Campbell allegedly told Mr. Benway that the DOC has a
contract with Facebook, that the page content added three
points to his Security Risk Group point system scale, and
that his tattoos added another two points to his scale.
Id. Mr. Benway allegedly remained in the Restricted
Housing Unit for six days without a disciplinary report or a
hearing issued on his security risk group classification.
allegedly confined in the Restricted Housing Unit,
Disciplinary Report Investigator Doe allegedly came to Mr.
Benway’s cell and allegedly told him that he was not
going to “beat the SRG affiliation” because there
was significant proof of gang activity on his Facebook page.
Compl. at 7. When Mr. Benway allegedly asked Doe how he could
be confined in the Restricted Housing Unit without a
disciplinary report, Investigator Doe allegedly replied that
the content of Mr. Benway’s Facebook page was enough.
days later, Mr. Benway allegedly was woken up and allegedly
told that he had to attend a hearing on his Security Risk
Group affiliation. Compl. at 7. During the hearing,
Lieutenant Russell allegedly presented two options: sign a
statement indicating he is a gang member or lose between
sixty and ninety days of commissary, phone, mail, and
visitation privileges. Id. Mr. Benway allegedly
signed the statement to avoid the sanctions. Id.
Lieutenant Russell and Hearing Officer King allegedly did not
permit Mr. Benway to give an oral statement to explain the
content of his Facebook page. Id. The signed
statement allegedly meant Mr. Benway was designated as a
member of the Bloods gang and sent to Phase 3 of the
Department of Correction’s Security Risk Group program
at Corrigan. Id. at 8.
allegedly confined, Mr. Benway allegedly reviewed the
Department of Correction’s Administrative Directives
regarding Security Risk Group affiliation and penal
discipline. Compl. at 8. Nothing in those directives
allegedly gave Campbell, Russell, King, or any Department of
Correction official the authority to place him in the
restricted housing unit based on the content of his Facebook
April 2016, Mr. Benway allegedly wrote a letter to Security
Risk Group Coordinator Aldi discussing the circumstances of
his confinement. He allegedly never received a response.
Compl. at 8. He also allegedly obtained his disciplinary
report history, which allegedly revealed he received no
disciplinary reports between 2016 and 2017. Id.
in the Security Risk Group allegedly had mental and physical
repercussions. Mr. Benway allegedly could not receive good
time credits, had limited visitation and phone privileges,
could not participate in any vocational, religious, or
educational programs, and had no access to a library. Compl.
at 9, 12-13. He allegedly was forced to remain in his cell
more than general population inmates and allegedly had
limited recreation time. Id. at 9. Inmates in the
Security Risk Group allegedly do not receive jackets during
outside recreation. Id. at 10. When there is a
lockdown due to a security issue, inmates allegedly are
confined in their cells for days, without the ability to
shower and their commissary privileges are reduced.
conditions allegedly were sub-standard. The unit allegedly
did not have heat or hot water. Id. at 10-11. Mr.
Benway’s toilet allegedly smelled of feces and the sink
in his cell allegedly was clogged. Id. at 10.
Garbage allegedly accumulated for more than eight hours at a
time, attracting flies and creating an unsanitary
environment. Id. at 10-11. Because there are
allegedly no congregate meals in SRG, Mr. Benway allegedly
was forced to eat meals in these conditions. Id. at
10. Inmates in the Security Risk Group allegedly are allowed
to clean their cells once a week. Id. at 11. Mr.
Benway allegedly suffered from sleep deprivation and
allegedly shook constantly because of these conditions.
Compl. at 11.
allegedly spoke with Lieutenant Kelly, the unit manager,
about these conditions, but Lieutenant Kelly allegedly just
“brush[ed] [him] off” and allegedly told him not
to come to jail. Id. at 12. Mr. Benway alleges that
Coordinator Aldi illegally designates pretrial detainees as
gang members in order to keep the Security Risk Group program
in place and generate more money for the Department of
Corrections. Id. at 13. When he allegedly re-entered
Department of Corrections custody in October 2018, Mr. Benway
allegedly was forced to remain in segregation, until he could
be transferred back to the Security Risk Group unit at
Corrigan. Id. at 14.
November 12, 2018, while allegedly housed in the Restrictive
Housing Unit at New Haven Correctional Center, there
allegedly was an incident between Corrections Officer Doe and
Lieutenant Roberts and Mr. Benway’s cellmate regarding
something covering the cell window. The officers allegedly
asked the cellmate to remove the covering and the cellmate
did not respond. Compl. at 25. Mr. Benway allegedly
encouraged his cellmate to remove the window covering and
allegedly informed the officers he had nothing to do with it.
Id. After the cellmate allegedly ignored a second
verbal request, Officer Doe allegedly opened the trap door
and sprayed chemical agent into the cell. It allegedly hit
Mr. Benway in the face, as he was using the toilet.
Benway allegedly suffered an asthma attack and the officers
allegedly pulled him out of the cell. Id. The
officers allegedly placed Mr. Benway, who was still
struggling to breathe, in a separate room. Id. The
officers allegedly retrieved a video camera and Mr. Benway
allegedly stated on film that the covering was not his fault.
next part of the incident allegedly was not recorded. The
officers allegedly then placed Mr. Benway’s head under
running water. Compl. at 26. Mr. Benway allegedly yelled and
said that he was drowning and could not breathe. Id.
Lieutenant Roberts allegedly said that would be fine.
Id. After all of this, the officers allegedly
returned Mr. Benway to the same cell, despite the fact that
it was still hard to breathe inside the cell. Id.
Officer Doe allegedly informed Mr. Benway and his cellmate
that they would each receive a disciplinary report for the
incident. Id. Mr. Benway’s cellmate again
allegedly protested that Mr. Benway had nothing to do with
the incident, but Officer Doe allegedly said that Lieutenants
Roberts and Hartley ordered a disciplinary report for both
inmates. Id. Officer Doe allegedly told Mr. Benway
to take up his issue with the lieutenant. Id.
December 28, 2018, Corrections Officer Silver allegedly began
threatening Mr. Benway and spitting at his cell door. Compl.
at 27. When Mr. Benway allegedly told Officer Silver that he
could not talk to him that way, Officer Silver allegedly
began “using obscene and vulgar language.”
Id. Mr. Benway allegedly informed a lieutenant of
Officer Silver’s actions and the lieutenant allegedly
answered, “I can care less about anything a [correction
officer] said to a[n] inmate.” Id. Mr. Benway
allegedly wrote requests and grievances about Silver’s
behavior. Id. Since then, other Department of
Corrections officials allegedly have “targeted”
January 2, 2019, Mr. Benway allegedly was housed in the E-Pod
Security Risk Group unit, but was brought to the Restricted
Housing Unit in B-Pod for a Class-A disciplinary report.
Compl. at 16. He allegedly wrote to Lieutenant Kelly, the
supervisor of the E-Pod Unit, explaining that he did not feel
safe in the B-Pod unit because of other gang members housed
there. Id. One week later, while in the shower, he
allegedly told Corrections Officer Melton that he was scared
to go back to the B-Pod unit because of problems he had
outside of prison. Id. The officer allegedly ignored
Mr. Benway and placed him in the B-Pod. Id.
January 10, 2019, Mr. Benway allegedly wrote to Warden
Faucher, regarding his safety at Corrigan. Compl. at 16. He
allegedly never received a response. Id. Mr. Benway
allegedly fears for his life and has been diagnosed with
post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder. Id. Gang members in the unit
allegedly often force inmates to either join their gang or be
January 25, 2019, Lieutenant Bellevue allegedly woke up Mr.
Benway and brought him to the medical unit. Compl. at 28.
Officials allegedly asked Mr. Benway “if anything
sexual happened to him.” Id. Mr. Benway
allegedly said no, and Lieutenant Bellevue then allegedly
showed him a handwritten letter. Id. It allegedly
stated that Patrick Lexis, Mr. Benway’s cellmate, had
sexually assaulted him and that Mr. Benway was going to harm
himself. Id. Mr. Benway allegedly stated that he was
never sexually assaulted and that he did not write the
letter. Id. Officials allegedly brought him back to
his cell. Id. Mr. Benway alleges that another
inmate, who apparently does not like him, wrote the letter.
evening of February 15, 2019, Corrections Officer Conroy
allegedly searched Mr. Benway’s cell. Second Mot. to
Amend at 2. Approximately one hour later, Officers Mercado
and Hill allegedly came by the cell to perform another
search. Id. When they opened the cell door, Lexis,
the cellmate, allegedly told them that a search had already
been performed one hour earlier. Id. Officer Mercado
allegedly then stated, “Want to help [inmates] with
lawsuits? [T]his is what happens.” Id. As he
was leaving the cell for the search, Mr. Benway allegedly
told the officers that he had legal mail in the cell and that
the officers could not read it. Id. Officer Conroy
allegedly told him that he was the officer, and “he
does what he wants.” Id.
cell allegedly was in complete disarray after the search.
Id. at 2. His paperwork, including his legal mail
and copies of Department of Corrections Administrative
Directives, allegedly were all over the floor. Id.
Some of his property, including his Qur’an and prayer
beads, allegedly had been damaged. Id. Mr. Benway
allegedly complained to Officers Conroy and Mercado, and
Conroy allegedly just told him to “write it up.”
Id. at 2-3.
that day, Mr. Benway allegedly wrote a letter to the unit
manager about what had happened during the cell search.
Compl. at 3. He also allegedly wrote a Freedom of Information
request for surveillance video footage of the search.
February 11, 2019 Mr. Benway sued Security Risk Group
Coordinator John Aldi, Warden Stephen Faucher, Lieutenant
Russell, Hearing Officer King, Corrections Officer Campbell,
Lieutenant Kelly, Disciplinary Investigator John Doe,
Lieutenant Roberts, Lieutenant Hartley, and Disciplinary
Report investigator Acevedo, alleging violations of the
First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S.
Constitution. Compl. at 1-3, 20-22.
February 21, 2019, Mr. Benway filed a motion to amend, adding
four relevant exhibits. First Mot. To Amend.
March 14, 2019, Mr. Benway filed a second motion to amend
claiming defendants Mercado, Conroy, and Hill retaliated
against him for filing lawsuits against the Department of
Corrections, damaged personal property, and interfered with
his ability to freely exercise his religion violating ...