United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
D'émon O'dell'bey (legal name Jayquan
Dilday) is a pretrial detainee and has filed this lawsuit
against various officials of the Connecticut Department of
Correction (“DOC”) arising from his placement in
restrictive confinement. He alleges that he was wrongly
placed in the DOC's Security Risk Group (SRG) program-a
program that subjects detainees suspected of affiliations
with certain criminal gangs to more restrictive conditions of
confinement. For the reasons stated below, I will allow
most of O'dell'bey's claims to proceed except
official capacity damages claims and those claims alleging
violations of O'dell'bey's constitutional right
to assistance of counsel and access to the courts.
complaint names the following five defendants in their
official and individual capacities: Scott Semple, the DOC
Commissioner; John Aldi, the Counselor Supervisor for the
DOC's SRG/Gang Management Unit; Antonio Santiago, the DOC
Director of Security; David Maiga, DOC's Director of
Offender Classification and Population Management; and Nick
Rodriguez, the Warden of the Northern Correctional
following facts are alleged in the complaint (Doc. #1) and
are accepted as true only for purposes of this ruling. In
2014 and 2015, O'dell'bey served a nine-month
sentence for “minor charges” at an unnamed
Connecticut correctional facility. Doc. #1 at 4 (¶ 19).
On January 9, 2015, during the term of that sentence,
O'dell'bey was wrongfully designated a member of the
Bloods, a well-known gang, after the DOC intercepted a letter
in which O'dell'bey described the recipient as a
“Blood, ” a term O'dell'bey explains was
meant in the sense of “Bro, Brother, Fam, or
Family.” Id. at 4 (¶ 18).
O'dell'bey acquiesced to this designation at the
time, “in a state of youth and naivety, to avoid
further detriment from a possible guilty finding after
measuring it to the length of his sentence.”
the DOC concluded based on this letter that
O'dell'bey should be placed in the SRG program, and
O'dell'bey retained that designation until his
release on September 11, 2015. Id. at 4 (¶ 19).
O'dell'bey was designated a gang member without any
form of hearing or notice, notwithstanding the procedures set
forth in DOC's Administrative Directive 9.4. Id.
at 3 (¶ 27). It appears that, although
O'dell'bey served out his specified term of
incarceration, he did not (and perhaps could not in the time
remaining in his sentence) complete the specified SRG
programming. Id. at 3 (¶ 23).
times, O'dell'bey claims that defendants Miaga and
Semple “are responsible for [O'dell'bey's]
placement in a restrictive housing unit because as Director
of Offender Classification and Population Management,
Defendant Miaga makes the assessment of the offender and
determines his overall risk level and needs, which determines
what level prison one goes to and as Commissioner defendant
Scott Semple has the final say.” Id. at 8
(¶ 57). Meanwhile, “Defendants John Aldi and A.
Santiago are answerable for the conditions that were imposed
on the plaintiff, because as the SRG Coordinator . . . John
Aldi proposes security provisions in the SRG program and
[Director of Security] Santiago approves or denies
them.” Id. at 8 (¶ 58).
was re-arrested on May 3, 2018, on charges of third-degree
burglary, among other things. He was remanded to the custody
of the DOC in advance of trial. He is presently incarcerated
in the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center
(“Corrigan”), and his case remains
awaiting trial on his present set of charges,
O'dell'bey was initially incarcerated in the
Bridgeport Correctional Center. Doc. #1 at 3 (¶ 21).
While there, O'dell'bey was once again designated a
gang member and placed in a Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU),
where he was separated from the general population,
handcuffed upon exiting the cell, denied access to the phone,
forced to eat in his cell, limited to three showers and two
changes of clothes a week, and given a “Ferguson
gown” (a tear-resistant single-piece outer garment
designed to be unable to be used as a noose) because, the
guard informed O'dell'bey, Bridgeport Correctional
Center had the highest suicide attempt rates of any prison in
the state. Id. at 3 (¶¶ 21-22).
O'dell'bey was transferred to Corrigan, he was once
again designated as a Blood and transferred to the
facility's SRG block “for a failure to complete the
security risk group program on his prior sentence.”
Id. at 3 (¶ 23). At the SRG block,
O'dell'bey was extorted by other inmates, who unlike
him really were Bloods, and who told O'dell'bey he
could not live amongst them when he failed to pay protection
money. Id. at 3 (¶ 28). A Captain Tommaro moved
O'dell'bey from B-Pod to E-Pod-still in the SRG
block-because of “issues” O'dell'bey had
with the Bloods, id. at 3 (¶ 29), but problems
continued and ultimately O'dell'bey was attacked by a
gang member. Id. at 3 (¶ 30).
O'dell'bey was punished for defending himself from
this attack; he was placed in a more restrictive housing unit
and was issued a class A ticket. Ibid.
applied for protective custody while housed in the Corrigan
SRG block, but before this application could be acted upon,
he was transferred to the MacDougall-Walker Correctional
Institution's SRG block. Id. at 3 (¶ 30).
At or around the time of the transfer, defendant Aldi told
O'dell'bey that O'dell'bey's assignment
to SRG status was punitive, and that Aldi understood the
DOC's administrative guidelines to permit punitive
assignment of SRG status. Id. at 3, 5 (¶¶
O'dell'bey's time as an SRG designee, he was
subjected to various restrictions not imposed on other
prisoners. These included a limitation on his phone calls to
three per week-even when O'dell'bey was using the
phone to prepare for his defense- forfeiture of good behavior
credit, ineligibility for community supervision, a bar on
visitors other than immediate family members, a limitation of
three showers per week, strip-searches each time he left his
cell, and a ban on using the law library or leisure library.
Id. at 5 (¶ 32). O'dell'bey
characterizes his SRG housing as a “hostile
environment, ” ibid., owing to the presence of
hardened convicted criminals who have “extorted and
assaulted” him. Id. at 7 (¶ 52).
made a written request to defendant Santiago to be relieved
from at least some of these conditions, complaining about his
inability to consult his lawyer over the phone (more than the
permitted three times per week), his lack of access to the
law library, and the invasion of his privacy caused by the
strip-searches. Id. at 5 (¶ 34). Defendant
Santiago did not respond. Ibid. In July 2018,
O'dell'bey filed a grievance, articulating the same
complaints; there was still no response. Id. at 5
(¶ 36). Nor was there a response to
O'dell'bey's appeal of the constructive denial of
his grievance. Id. at 7 (¶ 53).
in June 2018, however, O'dell'bey was served an SRG
ticket that, he alleges, falsely accused him of using
“SRG language” in a letter to his mother.
O'dell'bey was formally designated a gang member at a
hearing held in August 2018 solely based on evidence
presented by defendant Aldi. In addition to a renewed SRG
classification, O'dell'bey was punished with a 90-day
loss of phone privileges except for two legal calls per
month. Id. at 6 (¶¶ 39, 45).
O'dell'bey appealed this determination, but his
appeal was denied and his subsequent level three appeal was
denied in November 2018. Id. at 8 (¶ 64). He
also wrote a letter to defendants Semple, Aldi, Miaga, and
Santiago in August 2018 complaining about all of the above, a
letter to which the defendants failed to reply. Id.
at 6 (¶ 42).
point thereafter, O'dell'bey was reassigned from
Phase 2 of the SRG program to Phase 1 and transferred
“under the discretion of” defendants Miaga,
Semple, and Aldi to Northern Correctional Institution
(“Northern CI”), Connecticut's “level 5
supermax facility, ” which imposed restrictions on him
in addition to those detailed above: he was shackled whenever
outside his cell, handcuffed during his one hour of
recreation, and barred from the use of television or CDs (but
permitted the use of radio). Id. at 7 (¶ 49).
These conditions caused O'dell'bey “physical,
emotional and mental pain, ” Id. at 7 (¶
51), including depression and “auditory and visual
hallucination under the authority of psychiatric
professionals and doctors.” Id. at 7 (¶
October 2018, O'dell'bey requested a transfer from
Northern CI, arguing his placement there, and in the SRG, was
unconstitutional; there was no response to his request.
Id. at 8 (¶ 55). Two days later,
O'dell'bey stopped defendant Rodriguez while
Rodriguez was on a tour of Northern CI and requested a
transfer, “informing him of [O'dell'bey's]
misplacement.” Id. at 8 (¶ 60). Rodriguez
replied that he would not fix the situation, which, Rodriguez
said, was a consequence of O'dell'bey's gang
membership. O'dell'bey filed this suit in March 2019,
and remains subject to these conditions.
understand O'dell'bey's complaint to allege the
following constitutional claims.
O'dell'bey claims that because SRG status brings
about a wide variety of harsh conditions that can only be
characterized as punitive, an assignment to SRG status is
punishment of a pretrial detainee, in violation of the
substantive due process component of the Fourteenth
O'dell'bey claims that, even if pretrial detainees
may be placed in restrictive housing, defendants Aldi and
Santiago violated O'dell'bey's procedural due
process rights by (a) carrying over O'dell'bey's
SRG status from his prior term of incarceration as a
sentenced prisoner to apply to his current term of pre-trial
detention and (b) by extending or reaffirming
O'dell'bey's SRG status, all in violation of the
procedural due process component of the Fourteenth Amendment.
O'dell'bey claims that Miaga, Aldi, Semple, and
Santiago violated O'dell'bey's Fourth Amendment
right to personal security and Fourteenth Amendment
substantive and procedural due process rights by instituting
a policy of strip-searching SRG designees each and every time
prisoners left their cell.
O'Dell'bey claims that defendants Semple, Santiago,
and Rodriguez created and enforced a policy imposing certain
restrictions on his legal communication-specifically a ban on
access to the law library and limitations on legal phone
calls-that cumulatively inhibited his ability to call
potential witnesses in his defense, violating his Sixth
Amendment right to assistance of counsel and his
constitutional right of access to the courts.
complaint seeks money damages against the defendants. It also
seeks a declaratory judgment that the defendants violated the
Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and an injunction
“(1) to remove the plaintiff from the security risk
group and off the computer; (2) that pretrial detainees be
discluded [sic] from the Security Risk Group program; (3)
[that] pretrial detainee[s] get a minimum of 4 legal calls a
month to an attorney or bondsmen; (4) th[at] pretrial
detainee with nonviolent offenses [be] exempt from
unnecessary strip-searches; (5) and that the Blanket