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Black v. Goord

October 19, 2007

NATCH BLACK, 94-A-7733, PLAINTIFF
v.
GLENN S. GOORD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



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

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This is an action in which prison inmate Natch Black ("Plaintiff") alleges that defendants, all of whom were employees of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), violated his federal constitutional rights over a three-year period by requiring him to wear full mechanical restraints whenever he left his prison cell. Now before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment [#35] and Plaintiff's cross-motion for the same relief [#41]. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's application is denied, Defendants' application is granted, and this action is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

At all relevant times, Defendants were employed as follows: Glenn S. Goord ("Goord") was Commissioner of DOCS, Donald Selsky ("Selsky") was DOCS's Director of Special Housing Units ("SHUs"), Michael McGinnis ("McGinnis") was Superintendent of Southport Correctional Facility ("Southport") where Plaintiff was housed, Richard C. Morse ("Morse") was Southport's Deputy Superintendent for Security, Michael Corcoran ("Corcoran") was Southport's Deputy Superintendent of Administration, and Rocky Hazelton ("Hazelton") and William Wilcox ("Wilcox") were Corrections Captains at Southport. Southport is an all-SHU maximum security facility, meaning that inmates remain in their solitary-confinement cells 23 hours per day, with one hour for outside exercise.

Prior to June 1997, Plaintiff was sent to Southport's SHU after having been convicted of assaulting staff and possessing a weapon at Auburn Correctional Facility ("Auburn"). In June 1997 at Southport, Plaintiff was convicted at a disciplinary hearing of assaulting an inmate with a razor blade, fighting, possessing a weapon, interfering with an employee, and refusing a direct order. For his sentence, Plaintiff received an additional 48 months in the SHU. In addition, Plaintiff was placed under a Full Restraint Order, requiring that he be placed in "full restraints," i.e., handcuffed behind his back, with waist chain and leg irons, anytime he left his cell, including during his daily exercise period. The Full Restraint Order was imposed pursuant to DOCS regulations in effect at the time, which stated:

Any inmate assigned to an SHU who has a history of assaultive behavior and/or who presents a threat to the safety or security of himself/herself, other persons, or State property may be placed under a restraint order . . . by the deputy superintendent for security . . . .

***

A restraint order will be valid for no more than seven days and may be renewed by the deputy superintendent for security or, in his/her absence, the O.D. or higher ranking authority.

A copy of the restraint order and any renewal thereafter must be forwarded to the superintendent and inmate within 24 hours. The order and any renewal thereafter must briefly state the reason(s) for the order or renewal and contain the following notice to the inmate: 'You may write to the deputy superintendent for security or his/her designee to make a statement as to the need for continuing the restraint order.'

7 NYCRR § 305.3 (1993).

Plaintiff remained under the Full Restraint Order for three years, from June 1997 until July 2000. During this period, Plaintiff's restraint order was renewed weekly. (See, Morse Declaration, Ex. E). Reviewing officials indicated, in that regard, that renewal of the restraint order was appropriate given Plaintiff's disciplinary record, which included assaulting an inmate with a weapon on June 14, 1997, attempting to smuggle a weapon into the exercise yard in June 1998, throwing feces on an inmate in August 1998, and interfering with a search/frisk in May 1999. Id.

During the relevant three-year period, Plaintiff sought the removal of the Full Restraint Order through the Inmate Grievance Program by writing letters to DOCS officials and by filing inmate grievance complaints. Plaintiff sent several letters to Morse requesting that the Full Restraint Order be lifted, or that he be transferred to another facility. Morse apparently referred Plaintiff's letters to McGinnis, who responded, essentially, that full restraints were appropriate given Plaintiff's history of assaultive behavior. Plaintiff also wrote to Selsky, who replied that his staff had investigated Plaintiff's complaint and determined that Plaintiff's "restraint order status [was] being administered in accordance with Departmental policy." Plaintiff subsequently filed three grievances, numbered 17829-00, "Duplicate" 17829-00, and 18506-00, which were filed on January 16, 2000, January 25, 2000, and April 11, 2000, respectively. As the dates indicate, the grievances were filed toward the end of Plaintiff's three-year stint on full restraints. In all three grievances, Plaintiff basically complained that the Full Restraint Order was no longer necessary, as shown by his "good" behavior.*fn1 The grievances were dismissed purportedly because they involved disciplinary matters that cannot be resolved through the Inmate Grievance Program.

On April 25, 2000, Plaintiff commenced an action in this court, under Index Number 00-CV-6182, against the same individuals named here, that is, Goord, Selsky, McGinnis, Morse, Corcoran, Hazelton, and Wilcox. Suing pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, Plaintiff asserted, inter alia, two claims: 1) that Defendants violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment by requiring him to wear full restraints whenever he left his cell, including during his exercise period; and 2) that Defendants violated the Fourteenth Amendment Procedural Due Process guarantee by "arbitrarily confining [him] to full restraint [status] without conducting proper and adequate review of his status . . . [and] without hearing and notice." Plaintiff maintained that the Full Restraint Order was cruel and unusual punishment primarily because it prevented him from exercising during his one our of outdoor recreation. Additionally, Plaintiff maintained that his placement in full restraints during his exercise period caused him to suffer "serious pains, including cramps and numbness in his shoulder joints, arms, fingers, waist area, and ongoing serious shoulder and lower back problems." Plaintiff further claimed that his continued placement on full ...


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