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Doyle v. Santiago

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 18, 2019

COREY DOYLE, Plaintiff,
ANTONIO SANTIAGO, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Corey Doyle, incarcerated at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville, Connecticut, filed this case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff names four defendants, Director of Security Antonio Santiago, Lieutenant Alexander, Hearing Officer Tracy King, and Warden Corsella. He contends that the defendants denied him due process by classifying him to the Security Risk Group (“SRG”) Program and continuing him on that status for tattoos that were on his body when he previously was classified to and completed the SRG Program. The plaintiff seeks damages and an order that defendant Santiago return him to general population.

         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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. This requirement applies to all prisoner filings regardless whether the prisoner pays the filing fee. Nicholson v. Lenczewski, 356 F.Supp.2d 157, 159 (D. Conn. 2005) (citing Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115 (2d Cir. 1999) (per curiam)). Here, the plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.

         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. “A claim has facial plausibility when a plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         “Although courts must interpret a pro se complaint liberally, the complaint will be dismissed unless it includes sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility.” See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

         I. Allegations [1]

         On February 15, 2018, the plaintiff was housed at Carl Robinson Correctional Institution as a level 2 prisoner. ECF No. 11. ¶ 1. He received a Class A disciplinary report for self-mutilation and was sent to the restrictive housing unit (“RHU”). Id. ¶ 2. Lieutenant Alexander told the plaintiff that he would be sent to the SRG Program for his tattoos. Id. ¶ 3. The plaintiff stated that he received the tattoos when he previously was in the SRG Program and complained that Lieutenant Alexander's actions were not fair. Id. ¶ 4. Lieutenant Alexander merely said, “life isn't fair, you will remain in RHU.” Id. ¶ 5.

         On February 22, 2018, the plaintiff attended an SRG hearing before Hearing Officer King. Id. ¶ 6. The plaintiff stated that the disciplinary report was for self-mutilation; he did not receive written notice of any charges for SRG affiliation. Id. ¶ 7. The plaintiff pleaded guilty. Id. ¶ 15. Officer King did not permit the plaintiff to express his views about admission to the SRG Program. Id. ¶ 16.

         On February 29, 2018, the plaintiff was admitted to Phase 2 of the SRG Program. Id. ¶ 17. As he previously completed the SRG Program on August 14, 2015, the plaintiff must remain in the Program for two years before he can be returned to general population. Id. ¶ 18.

         In Phase 2 of the Program at Walker Correctional Institution, the plaintiff was subjected to the following conditions. Id. ¶ 21. He was not eligible to earn good-time credit or for parole, transitional supervision, or other re-entry programs. Id. ¶ 22. He was not permitted to have the television, CD player, and hot pot that he purchased from the commissary. Id. ¶ 23. There was no hot water to prepare food he purchased from the commissary. Id. ¶ 24. He was only permitted to spend $35.00 per week in the commissary while inmates in general population could spend $75.00 per week and $150.00 during the holidays. Id. ¶ 25. He spent 23 hours per day in his cell with one hour of recreation on weekdays, and all day in his cell on weekends. Id. ¶ 26. There was no indoor recreation, so inmates had to go outside in inclement weather or forfeit the recreation period. Id. ¶ 27. He could receive visits only from immediate family. Id. ¶ 28. He could shower only 3 times per week. Id. ¶ 29. Unlike inmates in general population, the plaintiff had no access to religious or educational programs. Id. ¶ 30. He was permitted only 3 phone calls per week. Id. ¶ 31. There were no rehabilitative programs. Id. ¶ 32. Inmates in Phase 2 had no access to books. Id. ¶ 33. Medical and mental health staff were insufficient to meet the needs of all the inmates. Id. ¶¶ 36-38. The plaintiff did not have access to a brush to clean the toilet in the cell. Id. ¶ 39.

         The plaintiff is subjected to the following conditions in Phase 3 of the Program at Corrigan Correctional Center. Id. ¶ 42. He continues to be ineligible for good time credit, parole, halfway house placement, and transitional supervision. Id. ¶ 43. “Social contact between doors” is prohibited. Id. ¶ 44. There is no hot water in the cell to prepare food. Id. ¶ 45. The plaintiff can spend $40.00 per week in the commissary. Id. ¶ 46. He is permitted only 3 phone calls per day. Id. ¶ 47. He still can receive visits only from immediate family. Id. ¶ 48. He can now have a television and CD player but no hot pot. Id. ¶ 49. He is permitted one day of vigorous exercise in the gym. Id. ¶ 50. There are no programs or congregate religious services in Phase 3. Id. ¶¶ 51-52, 54. Inmates have no access to books. Id. ¶ 53. The plaintiff still has no access to a toilet brush. Id. ¶ 55. When there is a fight in the unit, the entire unit is locked down for a week and all inmates are punished by denying them commissary and showers. Id. ¶ 56. This does not happen after a fight in general population. Id. ¶ 57. Medical and mental health treatment is inadequate in Phase 3. Id. ¶ 61. Phase 3 inmates go to the medical unit for sick call only on certain days. Id. ¶ 62. So many inmates request medical attention that the plaintiff does not get to go. Id. As in Phase 2, there is only one mental health worker for about 100 inmates. Id. ¶ 63. Cells of inmates in Phase 3 are searched more frequently than cells of prisoners in any other correctional facility. Id. ¶ 64. As a result of participation in the Program, the plaintiff suffers from paranoia, PTSD, depression, and anger issues. Id. ¶ 65.

         II. Analysis

         The plaintiff asserts the following claims for violation of his rights to substantive and procedural due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment, and Article first, sections 8 and 9 of the Connecticut Constitution: (1) Lieutenant Alexander issued a disciplinary report for self-mutilation, placed him in RHU for the tattoos, and conspired to place him in the SRG Program; (2) Officer King conducted a hearing on charges of self-mutilation and SRG affiliation without notice of the SRG affiliation charge and threatened him with maximum sanctions if he did not plead guilty; (3) Director Santiago did not conduct meaningful periodic reviews of the plaintiff's SRG designation; and (4) Warden Corsella cannot articulate a valid reason for imposing such harsh penalties. Plaintiff also challenges the constitutionality of the directive requiring him to serve two years in the SRG Program before he can be considered for return to general population.

         Department of Correction records show that the plaintiff was sentenced on May 1, 2014. (last visited September 30, 2019). Thus, he was a sentenced prisoner at all time relevant to this action.

         A. Fifth Amendment Claims

         The plaintiff asserts federal due process claims under both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. However, the defendants all are state actors. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment protects only against actions by federal government actors. See Dusenbery v. United States, 534 U.S. 161, 167 (2002) (Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause only protects citizens against conduct of federal government officials, not state officials); see also Pena v. Aldi, No. 3:19-cv-124(KAD), 2019 WL 2193465, at *5 (D. Conn. May 21, 2019) (same). Thus, the plaintiff's due process claims are cognizable only under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Any Fifth Amendment due process claims are dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).

         B. Procedural Due Process

         The plaintiff contends that his placement in the SRG Program violated his right to procedural due process. In Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209 (2005), the Supreme Court considered the process due inmates in connection with their classification and transfer to Ohio's highest security prison. Before any particular process is required, an inmate must demonstrate that he has a protected liberty interest in avoiding the classification at issue. Id. at 221 (before invoking procedural protections of the Due Process Clause, inmate must establish deprivation of an interest in life, liberty, or property). The United States Constitution does not create a liberty interest in avoiding transfer to more adverse conditions of confinement. Id. (citing Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225 (1976)).

         A liberty interest may arise under state regulations, but only if the restraint imposed “while not exceeding the sentence in such an unexpected manner as to give rise to protection by the Due Process Clause of its own force, nonetheless imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Id., at 222-23 (quoting Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483-484 (1995) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Thus, the Court must consider the nature of the restrictions the plaintiff faced in the SRG Program and the severity of those conditions in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life, not any specific procedural requirements in the prison directives. Id. at 223 (citing Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484).

         The Second Circuit has held that the Sandin analysis should be applied to determine whether placement in non-punitive administrative segregation implicates a liberty interest. Arce v. Walker, 139 F.3d 329, 334-35 (2d Cir. 1998). To determine whether conditions of segregated confinement constitute an atypical and significant hardship, the district court should consider the duration of the inmate's confinement in segregation as well as the conditions of segregated confinement. Palmer v. Richard, 364 F.3d 60, 64 (2d Cir. 2004).

         The plaintiff alleges that, because this is his second time in the SRG Program, he must remain in the Program for two years before he can be considered for return to general population. Doc. No.11 ¶ 18. He describes the conditions he was and is subjected to in Phases 2 and 3 of the Program. The Second Circuit had held that confinement in segregation for more than 305 days satisfied the Sandin standard. See Colon v. Howard, 215 F.3d 227, 231 (2d Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). As the plaintiff alleges that he must remain in the SRG program for two years, the Court will assume, for purposes of this review, that he has a protected liberty interest and consider whether he was afforded all required process.

         In Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460 (1983), the Supreme Court considered the process required to place an inmate in administrative segregation. The inmate “must merely receive some notice of the charges against him and an opportunity to present his views [either orally or in writing] to the prison official charged with deciding whether to transfer him to administrative segregation.” Id. at 476; see also Wilkinson, 545 U.S. at 229 (Hewitt sets forth the standard of due process for transfer to administrative segregation as some notice of charges and opportunity to be heard). The ...

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