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Benway v. Aldi

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 3, 2020

BRENDAN BENWAY, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN ALDI, et al., Defendants.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION TO AMEND

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On 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.[1] Compl., ECF No. 1 (Feb. 11, 2019).

         Mr. Benway has filed a motion to amend his Complaint to substitute defendant Disciplinary Investigator John Doe with Disciplinary Investigator Acevedo, and to reinstate the claims for injunctive and declaratory relief that had been previously dismissed as moot. Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 21 (Nov. 05, 2019).[2]

         For the following reasons, Mr. Benway's motion to amend is GRANTED.[3]

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[4]

         A. Factual Allegations

         In 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. The officers allegedly told him that they brought him there because they had found gang-related photographs and colors on his Facebook page. Id.

         Mr. 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. Id.

         While 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. Id. at 7. When Mr. Benway allegedly asked Investigator 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. Id.

         Several days later, Mr. Benway allegedly was woken up and told that he had to attend a hearing on his Security Risk Group affiliation. Id. 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.

         While allegedly confined at Corrigan, Mr. Benway allegedly reviewed the Department of Correction's Administrative Directives regarding Security Risk Group affiliation and penal discipline. Id. Nothing in those directives allegedly gave Officers 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 page. Id.

         In 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. Id. He also allegedly obtained his disciplinary report history, which allegedly revealed he received no disciplinary reports between 2016 and 2017. Id.

         Mr. Benway's confinement in the Security Risk Group allegedly had mental and physical repercussions. He 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. Id. 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. Id.

         Cell 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 shook constantly because of these conditions. Id.

         He 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. 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.

         On 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. Id. 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.

         On January 10, 2019, Mr. Benway allegedly wrote to Warden Faucher regarding his safety at Corrigan. Id. 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 assaulted. Id.

         B. Procedural Background

         On 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.

         Since filing his Complaint, Mr. Benway has twice moved for leave to amend the Complaint. Mot. for Leave to Amend, ECF No. 8 (Feb. 21, 2019) (“First Mot. To Amend”); Mot. for Leave to Amend, ECF No. 11 (Mar. 14, 2019) (“Second Mot. To Amend”).

         On 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).[5]

         In his motion to amend dated February 21, 2019, Mr. Benway requested to supplement the Complaint with four ...


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