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Borges v. McGinnis

April 25, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge


This is an action in which the plaintiff, a prison inmate, is suing concerning his conditions of confinement, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Now before the Court is defendants' motion [#45] for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the application is granted and this action is dismissed.


Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are taken from defendants' Rule 56 Statement of Facts, which is uncontested.*fn1 At all relevant times, plaintiff was an inmate at Southport Correctional Facility ("Southport."). On or about November 24, 2001, corrections staff at Southport observed plaintiff receive from a visitor (his mother) what appeared to be contraband drugs. Suspecting that plaintiff had subsequently ingested the contraband, corrections staff placed him in an observation cell, where he remained from 1:00 p.m. on November 24, 2001 until 12:20 p.m. on November 27, 2001. Plaintiff was videotaped during this entire period, except when he covered the camera, and in support of the instant motion, defendants submitted to the Court 10 VHS videotapes of plaintiff in the cell.

The observation cell was "a strip cell which is used for one on one drug watch." (Pl. Dep. 19). According to Department of Correctional Services' ("DOCS") Directive 4910, inmates suspected of ingesting contraband are kept in such observation rooms until they twice pass stools that are negative for contraband. (McGinnis Aff. [#56], Ex. A). Plaintiff's observation cell contained only a sleeping platform. There was not a functioning toilet, though plaintiff was provided with a bedpan when he needed to urinate or defecate.

When he was placed in the isolation cell, plaintiff was given a paper gown, paper shoes, and a thin mattress. Plaintiff requested that he also be given a blanket, to which he was entitled pursuant to Directive 4910. However, staff refused to provide a blanket, because they were unaware that it was required by Directive 4910. More specifically, Corrections Officer ("C.O.") Scott Marshall ("Marshall") states, in an affidavit, that he inadvertently failed to provide plaintiff with a blanket, because he thought that plaintiff was supposed to be treated similarly to inmates who are on suicide watch, who do not receive blankets. (Marshall Aff. [#55]).

On or about November 25th, plaintiff punched a glass window in his cell. Though he did not damage the glass, plaintiff later indicated that he thought his hand was broken. A staff nurse, Carmen Miller, R.N. ("Miller"), examined plaintiff's hand on November 26th and reported "zero swelling, zero deformity. Good range of motion. No apparent distress." (Pl. Dep. 71). There is no indication that plaintiff's hand actually was fractured, or that he suffered anything more than temporary discomfort from punching the window.

Early on November 26, 2001, plaintiff covered the video camera monitoring his cell with a piece of his paper gown. Corrections staff gave plaintiff several direct orders to remove the obstruction, but he refused. Later that day, plaintiff asked Sergeant Gary Morse ("Morse") for a blanket. Morse spoke with Captain Joseph Bellinier ("Bellnier"), who indicated that, pursuant to Directive 4910, plaintiff was entitled to receive a pillow, sheets, and blanket. Bellnier also issued a written memorandum to that effect. However, as a result of plaintiff covering the video camera and refusing the direct orders to remove the obstruction, another supervisor, Captain William Wilcox ("W ilcox"), placed a deprivation order against plaintiff, depriving him of "bed linen, pillow, [and] blankets," though he was allowed to keep his mattress and gown. (W ilcox Aff. [#68] Ex. A). In other words, although plaintiff would have received a blanket pursuant to Bellnier's order had he not covered the camera, he did not receive a blanket due to the resulting deprivation order.

Once plaintiff removed the paper obstruction from the camera, Sergeant Morse brought him hot water, a basin, soap, washcloth, tootbrush, and toothpaste. (Pl. Dep. 57). Later that day plaintiff returned the hygiene items, and corrections staff found a balloon containing marijuana hidden inside the toothpaste tube. (Bellnier Aff. [#50], Ex. B, p. 4). Plaintiff was later found guilty of possessing marijuana at a tier disciplinary hearing, and served 12 months in the Segregated Housing Unit. (Pl. Dep. 62-63).

In addition to the personal hygiene items detailed above, corrections staff also provided plaintiff with his regular meals during his stay in the observation room, though he alleges that he was denied breakfast on the morning of November 26th. (Pl. Dep. 65-66).

During the three-day period that plaintiff was in the isolation cell, outside temperatures at Southport ranged between 62 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Plaintiff contends that a window in his cell was open during this period. However, while it is undisputed that plaintiff complained about the cell being cold, there is no indication that he complained specifically about the window being open. Plaintiff does not know what the temperature was in the cell, but he estimates that it was "probably 50 degrees, around there. Probably less." (Pl. Dep. 27). In general, he contends that it was "cold." (Pl. Dep. 24-26). Defendants, on the other hand, indicate that the indoor temperature during that period was not extremely cold. (Pl. Dep. 26). Plaintiff did not suffer any physical injuries as a result of being kept in the isolation cell, except that he claims to have caught a cold, which lasted "a couple of days." (Pl. Dep. 58-60).

Corrections officers observing plaintiff made notes in a log every 15 minutes during his stay in the observation room. (Bellnier Aff. [#50] Ex. C). Many, if not most, of the entries indicate that plaintiff was lying on the bed, asleep or appearing to be asleep. Other entries indicate that plaintiff was exercising, walking around the cell, sitting on the floor, or looking out the window. (Id.). These observations appear accurate, based on the Court's viewing of randomly-selected portions of the videotape exhibits. Plaintiff was removed from the cell temporarily on the morning of November 27th, so that the cell could be cleaned.

Plaintiff had no problems or "bad blood or ill will" with any of the defendants prior to being placed in isolation. (Pl. Dep. 8-9). Although plaintiff contends that corrections staff denied his requests for a blanket, he does not contend that they verbally abused him or used any type of epithet toward him.

Defendants filed the subject summary judgment motion on December 28, 2005. In support of the motion, defendants submitted affidavits from the individual defendants, the aforementioned video tapes, photographs of the cell, log notes, climatological data, and plaintiff's deposition transcript. The affidavits of Superintendent Michael McGinnis ("McGinnis"), Deputy Superintendent Michael Corcoran ("Corcoran"), Assistant Deputy Superintendent Lawrence Weingartner ("W eingartner"), Lt. David Augustine ("Augustine"), Lt. Richard Donahue ("Donahue"), and Lt. Charles Marshall ("Marshall") all essentially indicate that they did not personally know that plaintiff was in the observation cell or that he was complaining of being cold. On the other hand, Bellnier, Wilcox, Morse, Miller, Marshall, Sgt. Richard Moriarty ("Moriarty"), Sgt. John Morton ("Morton"), C.O. William Meck ("Meck"), C.O. James O'Herron ("O'Herron"), C.O. Kevin Qualey ("Qualey"), C.O. Lynn Rice ("Rice"), C.O. Douglas W estervelt ("W estervelt"), C.O. Alan W heeler ("W heeler"), and C.O. Byron Potter ("Potter"), all essentially indicate that they knew that plaintiff was in the observation cell, but deny that the cell was dangerously cold, though some acknowledge that plaintiff complained to them of being cold. And finally, defendant Thomas Giltner ("Giltner") indicates that ...

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