Taylor v. Murphy et al
Bench Ruling, FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW. The Clerk of the Court is instructed to enter judgment in favor of defendants on all counts and to close the case. See attached ruling. Signed by Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons on 9/29/2012. (Garcia, M.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
BRIAN K. MURPHY, et al.,
CASE NO. 3:10-cv-245 (HBF)
Plaintiff Derrick Taylor (“Taylor”) brings this civil rights
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants
violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and
unusual punishment by denying him a meaningful opportunity for
recreation. Plaintiff‟s constitutional claim arises out of a
Department of Corrections policy change in September 2009 that
required inmates in Phase I of the Security Risk Group Safety
Threat Member (“SRGSTM”) program at Northern Correctional
Institute (“Northern”), to wear handcuffs during their recreation
During the time period giving rise to plaintiff‟s
allegations, defendant Angel Quiros was the Warden at Northern,
Michael LaJoie was the Department of Corrections District
Administrator, and Brian Murphy was the interim Acting
Commissioner for the Department of Corrections.
Plaintiff seeks injunctive and declaratory relief in
addition to an award of nominal and punitive damages.
trial was held March 13, 14, 15, 16 and 19, 2012.1 At trial,
plaintiff testified on his own behalf and also presented the
testimony of inmate Chauncey Sturdivent; inmate Rayquan Stokely;
Michael LaJoie, District Administrator; Captain Gerald Hines;
Andrew Cameron, correctional recreational supervisor at Northern;
Angel Quiros2, District Administrator; Dr. Suzanne Ducate; and
the expert testimony of Douglas Baumgarten, an expert in exercise
science. [doc. #92, Pl.‟s Witness List]. Defendants offered the
testimony of Brian Murphy, retired Acting Commissioner of the
Department of Corrections; John Aldi, Counselor Supervisor and
Security Risk Group coordinator; Captain Butkiewiez, SRGSTM Phase
I unit manager; and the expert testimony of Dr. Suzanne Ducate,
director of psych services and principal psychiatrist for the
Department of Corrections, and an expert in correctional
medicine. The testimony and evidence adduced at the trial are
summarized below as necessary to explain the Court‟s findings and
conclusions. For the reasons that follow, the Court enters
judgment in favor of the defendants.
Given the similarity in claims, this case was tried in conjunction with the
case, Lamont v. Murphy, 10cv1364 (HBF). Plaintiffs Taylor and Lamont were both
ably represented by pro bono counsel, Attorney Robert Mitchell. Defendants in
both cases were represented by Assistant Attorneys General Ann Lynch and
Steven Strom. Following the presentation of evidence in the Taylor case, the
Court granted the parties‟ motion to incorporate all exhibits and testimony
from the Taylor case into the Lamont case.
Mr. Quiros testified by deposition. [Pl.‟s Ex. 7].
FINDINGS OF FACT
A. THE SECURITY RISK GROUP SAFETY THREAT MEMBER PROGRAM
Northern is a level 5 maximum level security institution,
inmates on death row, gang threat program inmates,
inmates with chronic discipline, and inmates who have
demonstrated a serious inability to adjust to confinement, posing
a threat to the safety and security of the community, staff and
The SRGSTM program at Northern was created in the 1990s3 and
designed for inmates who have been incarcerated and designated by
DOC as gang members and threats to the general prison population.
The SRGSTM program differs from the Administrative
Segregation program in that it is based on historical
perspectives and focuses on inmates who have been designated gang
members and are engaging in gang activity.
An inmate is placed in the SRGSTM Program if, among other
things, the DOC has evidence that the inmate is involved in
committing a crime or carrying out a hit against another gang
LaJoie believes the program began in 1993.
Since its inception, the SRGSTM program has had three
phases, which must be successfully completed by the inmate before
he reintegrates into general population.
In general, an inmate remains in Phase I of the SRGSTM
program for 120 days.
This period may change depending upon an inmate‟s behavior
or disciplinary history.
Phase I SRGSTM inmates recreate in the prison recreation
yard in groups of 8.
Phase I of the SRGSTM is described as a “cooling down”
period where the inmate, for a minimum period of four months, is
given an opportunity to calm down and get away from the pressure
of general population.
Inmates in Phase I of the SRGSTM program may only live or
recreate with inmates who are in the same gang or are members of
a compatible gang.
Prior to October 2009, inmates in the SRGSTM Phase I program
recreated for one hour, five times a week, with other inmates in
groups of approximately 6-8 inmates.
Prior to October 2009, SRGSTM Phase I inmates were permitted
to recreate without any restraints, i.e., leg irons, tethers or
With very rare exceptions, SRGSTM Phase I inmates are not in
leg irons or belly or tether chains during recreation.
Inmates who successfully complete SRGSTM Phase I transition
into SRGSTM Phase II, which lasts a minimum of ninety days.
Phase II is a period when the inmates continue to settle
down and begin to interact with other inmates. As in Phase I,
inmates are permitted to recreate in the recreation yard for one
hour a day, five times a week.
Phase III, the final phase of the program, is meant to
simulate general population.
Inmates in Phase II and Phase III are allowed to recreate
In all phases of the SRGSTM program, inmates are allowed to
exercise in their cells.
On or about October 5, 2009, the recreation policy changed,
requiring SRGSTM Phase I inmates to recreate in handcuffs.4
B. TAYLOR’S BACKGROUND
Taylor is serving an 80-year sentence for murder and escape
in the first degree.
Taylor has been designated by the Department of Corrections
as a member and leader of the Latin Kings. Taylor has been
incarcerated since 1995, and has been housed at a number of
correctional institutes in Connecticut and in New Jersey.
At first, the policy change required SRGSTM Phase I inmates to be handcuffed
in the front; in January 2010, the policy changed, requiring Phase I SRGSTM
inmates to be handcuffed behind the back. [Def.‟s Ex. 524a-c].
In May of 2003, plaintiff was transferred under the
Interstate Compact Agreement to New Jersey, where he remained for
roughly three years.
While in New Jersey, plaintiff assumed responsibility for
hiding a loaded, 32 automatic gun in a hallway in the New Jersey
Plaintiff declined to answer questions, on the basis of the
Fifth Amendment, as to how he obtained the gun while in prison
but he did plead guilty to a disciplinary report in New Jersey
for possession of the gun.
On or about September 17, 2008, plaintiff was found to be in
possession of a document discussing the different Latin King
leadership positions and thus received a Security Risk Group
affiliation disciplinary report, to which he pled guilty.
On or about October 1, 2008, plaintiff pled guilty to a
disciplinary report for Security Risk Group Safety Threat Member.
Asserting a Fifth Amendment privilege, plaintiff declined to
answer whether on or about August 22, 2008, he wrote a letter
accusing another inmate of misrepresenting the Almighty Latin
King and Queen Nation.
Plaintiff has at least one tattoo on his body that could be
symbolic of membership in the Latin Kings.
On September 18, 2008, two documents discussing Latin King
activity and its organization were found in plaintiff‟s property.
Plaintiff received a disciplinary report for Security Risk Group
affiliation, to which he pled guilty.
On or about March 18, 2009, plaintiff received a
disciplinary report for Contraband A, after several pieces of
metal, a screw and a wire were found in his shower shoes.
The items are considered contraband as they can be attached
to items such as a toothbrush and made into a homemade knife
and/or inserted into an electrical outlet to start a fire.
Plaintiff claimed that the items were to be used to construct a
device for heating soup, coffee, etc.
Plaintiff pled guilty to
the Contraband A disciplinary report.
Plaintiff has said that his cell is his whole world.
Plaintiff seals his door with socks so that he does not hear
Plaintiff testified that he cannot live with a cellmate and
that when that arrangement has been tried, violence between
plaintiff and his cellmate has resulted.
In the past, plaintiff has said that he hates all other
prisoners, their noises, their smell, their blabbering, their
stupidity, and that he hated even being near them.
36. Plaintiff‟s daily routine is as follows:
He wakes up and has breakfast around 6:30 or 7:00 AM,
and picks up boxes and other items off the floor and
puts them on the top bunk.
He then gets down on his hands and knees and with a
washcloth and shampoo, washes his cell floor and then
Plaintiff then wipes off the boxes and places them back
onto the floor.
Plaintiff wipes off the top bunk, books and the desk.
Plaintiff then makes some coffee and listens to the
news, political shows, music and baseball games on the
On days when recreation is after 9:30 AM, he will go to
recreation. If it is before that time, he does not go
to recreation because he has not yet cleaned his cell.
Plaintiff also reads.
C. SRGSTM PHASE I ASSAULTS PRIOR TO OCTOBER 2009
Although SRGSTM Phase I inmates only live or recreate with
inmates who are in the same gang or are members of a compatible
gang, there were numerous fights and/or assaults in 2009, prior
to October 5, 2009.
The Court credits the testimony of Captain Butkiewiez and
District Administrator LaJoie that in 2009 there was an increase
in assaults among inmates and toward staff members, as reflected
in the Incident Summary report for SRGSTM Phase I at Northern.
[Def.‟s Ex. 504c]. The increase in assaults among the SRGSTM
Phase I inmates precipitated the change in the restraint policy
On January 2, 2009, there was a fight in recreation yard
between two SRGSTM Phase I inmates necessitating the use of a
On March 9, 2009, there was a fight in the recreation yard
involving four SRGSTM Phase I inmates. Officer Chapman injured
his right wrist when he inadvertently hit a wall while running to
answer the code call.
On April 3, 2009, there was fight in the recreation yard
when two SRGSTM Phase I inmates assaulted another SRGSTM Phase I
inmate, necessitating the use of a chemical agent.
On May 4, 2009, there was a fight in the recreation yard
between two SRGSTM Phase I inmates.
On May 26, 2009, there was a fight in the recreation yard
involving nine SRGSTM Phase I inmates, necessitating the use of
Officer Diaz inadvertently got capstun to his
On June 1, 2009, there was an inmate fight in the recreation
yard between two SRGSTM Phase I inmates, necessitating the use of
a chemical agent.
On June 4, 2009, there was a fight in the recreation yard
among three SRGSTM Phase I inmates.
On July 16, 2009, there was a fight in the recreation yard
between two SRGSTM Phase I inmates.
Blood splattered on a
On August 12, 2009, one SRGSTM Phase I inmate attempted to
assault another SRGSTM Phase I inmate by rushing toward him and
trying to strike him with his fists.
On August 30, 2009, one SRGSTM Phase I inmate began to
assault another inmate in the multi-purpose room.
On September 18, 2009, Correctional Officer Harrison was
seriously assaulted by two SRGSTM Phase I inmates after he
returned one of the unrestrained SRGSTM Phase I inmates to his
This inmate‟s cellmate threw soup into C/O Harrison‟s face
and then both inmates began punching and kicking him.
Harrison could do nothing but curl up in a fetal position.
inmates then resisted responding staff.
[Def.‟s Ex. 505,
incident report and nice vision footage of incident].
Although the incident involving Officer Harrison, which led
to the restraint policy, took place on the tier, not in the
recreation yard, the Court credits Captain Butkiewiez‟s testimony
that anytime an inmate is unrestrained, the safety and security
of the staff and other inmates is compromised.
The unpredictability, frequency and seriousness of these
assaults and fights is a reason, defendants contend, that for the
safety and well-being of both staff and inmates, something needed
to be done immediately.
Plaintiff was not a participant in any of the fights or
assaults that took place in 2009.
D. PROCESS THROUGH WHICH RECREATION POLICY WAS REVIEWED AND
Following the multiple assaults in 2009, Brian Murphy,
interim DOC commissioner, called a meeting to discuss the safety
concerns about the SRGSTM program.
Murphy testified that, “the frequency and amount of violence
was unacceptable. I thought we had a serious problem and needed
to be proactive about it.”
Murphy formed a committee, headed by Michael LaJoie, North
District Administrator, to review the problems and present
LaJoie testified that the recreation restraint policy for
SRGSTM Phase I needed to be changed because, “Doing nothing
wasn‟t an option”. Murphy agreed that keeping no-restraint
recreation was not an option because they needed safety and
Regarding the policy change, Murphy testified that he wanted
to try to use the least restrictive methods to accomplish the
task, but Northern is where the most dangerous inmates are
housed. He said he did not want to eliminate the right to
recreate altogether in Phase I and wanted to use the least
restrictive means to accomplish the goals. Murphy was aware that
the Eighth Amendment provides a right to recreate.
Murphy, LaJoie, Quiros and the rest of the committee
considered the following options: no recreation; recreation
cages; individual recreation; no restraints; some inmates in
restraints and some inmates unrestrained; and restraints.
The DOC decided against recreation cages because they lacked
the time or money to implement, and recreation cages were part of
the Administrative Segregation program, which was meant to be
more restrictive than SRGSTM.
Moreover, cages were rejected
because the staff wanted to allow the inmates to socialize in
order to collect intelligence and to watch inmates interact with
The DOC decided against individual recreation because there
would not be enough time in the day to recreate all the inmates.
The DOC decided against eliminating recreation.
The DOC decided against having some inmates restrained and
others unrestrained, because individual determinations regarding
recreation would undermine the DOC‟s motto of being “Firm, Fair
On September 25, 2009, Warden Quiros circulated a memo to
Deputy Commissioner Mark Strange, with a copy to Michael LaJoie,
outlining the proposed corrective changes. Among other changes,
it recommended that,
All inmates classified as SRGSTM, phase 1 inmate shall be
handcuffed behind the back for all out of cell activity. The
exceptions to this are legal visits, legal phone calls and
social phone calls. For these exceptions, the inmate will be
handcuffed in the front. [Def.‟s Ex. 514].
On October 1, 2009, Quiros authored a memo to Deputy
Commissioner Strange, with a copy to LaJoie, setting forth the
adopted policy changes. Quiros stated:
As requested, the following is an action plan to implement
the new policy changes for the Security Risk Group Safety
Threat Member Program at Northern. These policy changes and
[sic] been reviewed and approved by Assistant Attorney
General Terry O‟Neil.
All Inmates classified as SRGSTM, phase 1 inmate shall be
handcuffed behind the back for all out of cell activity. The
exceptions to this are legal visits, legal phone calls,
inmate court yard recreation and social phone calls. For
these exceptions, the inmate will be handcuffed in the
[Def.‟s Ex. 515].
Ultimately after considering all the options, including the
fact that Phase I was for a short period of time and the fact
that inmates routinely exercise in their cells, it was decided
that as of October 5, 2009, SRGSTM Phase I inmates would recreate
in handcuffs in the front. [Def.‟s Ex. 512]
When the restraint policy for Phase I inmates was changed in
October 2009, the defendants agreed that meaningful exercise was
accomplished by moving the inmate outside of the cell, having the
inmate be with the elements, move their feet, get some sun, walk
around and get some exercise, and enjoy the open space, in
addition to the fact that inmates were allowed to exercise in
On January 6, 2010, two SRGSTM Phase I inmates, on their way
to recreation and handcuffed in the front, assaulted Officers
Jones and Guimond. Both officers were struck on their heads with
handcuffs. Numerous staff were injured. [Def.‟s Ex. 506a-b,
incident report and nice vision footage of incident].
Effective January 14, 2010, following a memo from Quiros to
LaJoie, SRGSTM Phase I inmates recreated in the yard handcuffed
behind the back. [Def.‟s Ex. 524a-c].
E. SRGSTM PROGRAM AND TAYLOR
Plaintiff went into SRGSTM Phase I from September 18, 2008
to March 5, 2010 (just under 17 months).
For purposes of this case, the relevant time period is
October 2009 through March 2010, the period Taylor, a SRGSTM
Phase I inmate at Northern, was subjected to the recreation
While in the SRGSTM Phase I program, plaintiff was in a
Plaintiff was housed in 214 2 east.
During the entire time that plaintiff was in SRGSTM Phase I,
plaintiff was in a single cell approximately 7 feet wide by 12
feet long, with two narrow bunk beds 30 inches wide by 79 inches
long, a desk 16 inches wide by 36 inches long, a sink/toilet
area, the sink being 28 inches wide by 13 inches deep with the
toilet extending out by 24 inches.
Within the cell, defendants
allege that plaintiff had sufficient room to perform exercises or
calisthenics such as jumping, running in place, push-ups or situps.
During SRGSTM Phase I, Taylor was a barber for other
From September 18, 2008, through October 5, 2009, as an
SRGSTM Phase I inmate Taylor was permitted to recreate one hour a
day five times a week, without handcuffs.
From October 5, 2009, after the restraint policy changed,
through March 2010, as an SRGSTM Phase I inmate Taylor was
permitted to recreate one hour a day five times a week, in
Plaintiff never recreated in belly chains or leg irons while
a SRGSTM Phase I inmate.
Prior to implementation of the restraint policy, Taylor and
other SRGSTM Phase I inmates could play handball, do push-ups and
jog in the recreation yard.
However, plaintiff injured his ankle in 2002 playing
handball, at which time he stopped playing handball.
Plaintiff testified that he does a couple of hundred push-
ups in his cell per day.
Plaintiff testified that he could do sit-ups and chin ups in
his cell, but does not.
In addition to in-cell exercise, during the time that
plaintiff was in SRGSTM Phase I, plaintiff was allowed to walk in
the outside recreation yard, albeit in handcuffs, for 5 hours per
F. JUSTIFICATION FOR AND EFFECT OF THE SRGSTM PHASE I RECREATION
It is the professional opinion of defendants that the
decrease in the number of inmate fights in the recreation yards
is directly attributable to the policy requiring that SRGSTM
Phase I inmates recreate in handcuffs.
Any time there is an inmate fight, safety and security of
the correctional facility is adversely affected.
Inmates in the recreation yard who are assaulted or engage
in a fight are at risk of getting injured.
Staff must break up an inmate fight and thus are also at
risk of being injured.
In the past, staff has been injured while responding to
Riots or disturbances are often started by inmate fights.
Any time there is a major riot or disturbance at a
correctional facility, the safety and security of the general
public is threatened, as hostages can be taken and escapes can
Plaintiff concedes that the number of fights occurring
during recreation in SRGSTM Phase I has decreased since inmates
have been restrained during recreation.
G. OPPORTUNITIIES FOR EXERCISE
Even in restraints, plaintiff and other SRGSTM Phase I
inmates could walk in the recreation yard.
Plaintiff‟s expert in exercise science, Douglas Baumgarten,
testified that, even restrained behind the back, an inmate could
walk at the pace of 3.5 miles an hour.
Chauncey Sturdivent, a witness for the plaintiff, testified
that during SRGSTM Phase I he would run in place, do push-ups,
jumping jacks, burpees and crunches in his cell.
Rayquan Stokely, a witness for the plaintiff, testified that
SRGSTM inmates would do group exercises in their cells, where one
inmate would yell out an exercise and all would do the exercises
As confirmed by Stokely and Sturdivent, plaintiff‟s
witnesses, other inmates exercise regularly in similar sized
cells, doing push-ups and sit-ups.
There is no evidence of any inmate being assaulted or
retaliated against during the SRGSTM program for doing in-cell
Defendants introduced videos of Officer McCormack performing
various exercises, such as running in place, squat thrusts and
jumping jacks, in different cells.
[Def.‟s Exs. 507a-d].
The videos were taken at Northern in a west side cell
identical to Taylor‟s.
In order to film these videos, the entire west unit was
evacuated through a fire drill, decreasing the typical level of
noise in the unit.
100. The noise produced by exercising is greatest for the cell
beneath the cell where the exercises are being done. [Def.‟s Ex.
101. The Court credits the testimony of Dr. Ducate, an expert in
correctional medicine, that plaintiff can do calisthenics in his
cell, such as lunges, jumping jacks, sit-ups, crunches, push-ups,
squats, and running in place, which, when alternated rapidly, can
provide significant cardiovascular benefits.
102. The Court credits the testimony of Dr. Ducate that navy
submarine officers who are confined to small spaces, akin to a
prison cell, are able to stay in shape by performing a series of
calisthenics, as reflected in Def.‟s Ex. 520, a Submarine SeriesLevel 1 and 2, Navy Operational Fitness Series.
103. The Court credits the testimony of Dr. Ducate that, to a
reasonable degree of medical certainty, plaintiff had a
meaningful opportunity to exercise.
104. The Court credits the testimony of Dr. Ducate that there is
no evidence to indicate that plaintiff had any mental health
problems because of a lack of exercise.
105. The Court credits the testimony of Dr. Ducate that there is
no evidence that recreating in handcuffs caused plaintiff to
suffer any physical or mental health injuries.
Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated his
constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United
States Constitution by depriving him of the opportunity for
meaningful recreation. The question before this Court is whether
plaintiff has sustained his burden of proof on this claim. For
the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that plaintiff has
failed to sustain his burden of proof and finds in favor of the
“It is undisputed that the treatment a prisoner receives in
prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject
to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment.”
Helling v. McKinney,
509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993); see also Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337,
To prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim, an inmate
must provide evidence demonstrating the failure of prison
officials to provide for inmates‟ “basic human needs-e.g., food,
clothing, shelter, medical care, and reasonable safety.” DeShaney
v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 200
An inmate may prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim only
where he proves both an objective element and a subjective
element. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Jolly v.
Coughlin, 76 F.3d 468, 480 (2d Cir. 1996).
To satisfy the objective element, a “plaintiff must
demonstrate that the conditions of his confinement result „in
unquestioned and serious deprivations of basic human needs.‟”
i.e. violating contemporary standards of decency. Jolly, 76 F.3d
at 480 (quoting Anderson v. Coughlin, 757 F.2d 33, 35 (2d Cir.
1985)). “A court faced with the task of determining whether a
particular deprivation falls below the objective requirements of
the Eighth Amendment should consider (1) the duration of the
deprivation; (2) the extent of the deprivation; (3) the
availability of other out-of-cell activities; (4) the opportunity
for in-cell exercise; and (5) the justification for the
deprivation.” Williams v. Goord, 142 F. Supp. 2d 416, 425
(S.D.N.Y. 2001) (citations omitted).
The subjective element requires a plaintiff to show that
the prison official acted with a “sufficiently culpable state of
mind”, i.e., with “deliberate indifference to inmate health or
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (citations omitted).
Denial of Recreation
Both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals for the
Second Circuit have acknowledged that exercise is a basic human
need that must be provided for inmates.
See Wilson v. Seiter,
501 U.S. 294, 304-05 (1991); Williams v. Greifinger, 97 F.3d 699,
704 (2d Cir. 1996); Sostre v. McGinnis, 442 F.2d 178, 193 & n.25
(2d Cir. 1971).
Restrictions on exercise should not be
Restrictions must be limited to unusual circumstances
or situations where restrictions are needed for disciplinary
See Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 737 (2002) (noting
that penological concerns may be considered in reviewing an
Eighth Amendment claim); Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 547
(1979) (“the problems that arise in the day-to day operation of a
corrections facility are not susceptible of easy solutions.
Prison administrators therefore should be accorded wide-ranging
deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices
that, in their judgment, are needed to preserve internal order
and discipline and to maintain institutional security”).
While courts have found that denial of all opportunity to
exercise violates an inmate's constitutional rights, they have
found no violation where the inmate has some opportunity for
exercise, either in or outside of his cell. Indeed, the issue has
been litigated in this Court for decades. Recently, Judge Droney
in Shakur v. Sieminski, Civ. No. 3:07cv1239 (CRD), 2009 WL
2151174 (D. Conn. July 15, 2009), in granting defendant summary
judgment, held that plaintiff‟s right to recreate was not
violated where, “there is sufficient room for Shakur to perform
calisthenics, run in place or do sit-ups or push-ups. . . in his
cell”. Similarly, in Morgan v. Rowland, Civ. No. 3:01cv1107
(CRD), 2006 WL 695813, at *7 (D. Conn. March 17, 2006), the Court
found that plaintiff, a Phase I Administrative Segregation inmate
at Northern who was in full restraints during his outdoor
recreation, did not suffer a constitutional violation given that
he had sufficient room in cell to perform calisthenics. In Dawes
v. Coughlin, 964 F. Supp. 652 (N.D.N.Y. 1997), aff'd, 159 F.3d
1346 (2d Cir. 1998), the Court held that requiring an inmate to
recreate in full restraints pursuant to a restraint order issued
for safety and security reasons did not violate inmate's Eighth
Amendment rights where inmate was able to move around in
With these principles in mind, the Court turns to the record
1. OBJECTIVE ELEMENT
With regard to the objective element, the Court considers
factors including the duration and extent of the deprivation, the
availability of other out-of-cell activities, the opportunity for
in-cell exercise and the reason for the deprivation. Williams v.
Goord, 142 F. Supp. 2d, at 425.
Duration of the deprivation
The evidence shows that SRGSTM Phase I was meant to be of
limited duration and a cooling down period, lasting 120 to 180
days. The evidence established that transition to Phase II of the
program, where recreation was less restricted, was voluntary and
depended on the inmate‟s willingness to subscribe to the
program‟s philosophy. Mr. Quiros testified that, “[l]ack of
motivation in the program poor attitude in the program,
intelligence that we have gathered of still engaging in gang
activity could prevent or prolong the stay.” [Quiros depo. at
With regard to Mr. Taylor specifically, the duration of his
stay at Phase I was about 17 months, considerably more than the
typical four months. Mr. Quiros testified that Mr. Taylor spent
more time in Phase I because he was a second time designation,
meaning that this was his second time going through the program.
Mr. Quiros explained that when “you‟re a second designation, you
gotta remain free, disciplinary free, for two years before you
are even considered to be removed from that status [. . .]”.
[Quiros depo. at 54]. Although Mr. Taylor was in Phase I for 17
months, the restraint policy at issue was only in effect for the
final 6 months of Mr. Taylor‟s time in Phase I.
The extent of the deprivation
The record is uncontroverted that the change in the
recreation restraint policy limited plaintiff‟s ability to do
certain exercises and engage in certain activities while
recreating in the yard. Without handcuffs, plaintiff and other
inmates could use the outdoor recreation yard to play handball,
jog or run vigorously, do push-ups and other calisthenics.5 With
handcuffs, the plaintiff and other inmates were limited to
walking around and talking with other inmates. The Court credits
the testimony of plaintiff‟s expert in exercise science that even
with handcuffs behind the back, a person could safely walk at a
speed of 3.5 miles an hour. Moreover, the Court credits the
defendants‟ testimony that the recreation restraint policy did
not interfere with plaintiff‟s opportunity to breathe fresh air,
be exposed to direct sunlight, socialize with other inmates, walk
around, and have a change of activity in a day that was spent
mostly in his cell.
Further, the Court credits the testimony of Dr. Ducate, an
expert on correctional medicine familiar with the plaintiff‟s
health, that (1) there is no evidence that plaintiff suffered any
mental health problems because of a lack of exercise, and (2)
there is no evidence that recreating in handcuffs caused
plaintiff to suffer any physical or mental health injuries.
Since 2002, Mr. Taylor was unable to play handball because of his ankle
The Court finds that the extent of the deprivation, in light
of the purpose and limited duration of SRGSTM Phase I and the
security concerns of the facility, was not objectively
The availability of other out of cell activities
There is no dispute that SRGSTM Phase I was very
restrictive, with limited activities or programming. Generally,
an SRGSTM Phase I inmate was allowed one hour of recreation
daily, Monday through Friday; three 15-minute showers a week,
three 15-minute telephone calls and, if necessary, medical,
social and legal visits. LaJoie testified that all meals were in
the cell and there was no educational programming during Phase I.
Additionally, during Phase I, Mr. Taylor was permitted to barber
for other affiliate SRGSTM members.
The program was designed to make opportunities for out of
cell activities during SRGSTM Phase I extremely limited. However,
the Court finds that recreation for one hour, five times a week,
outdoors, even in handcuffs, provided plaintiff and other inmates
many benefits, including the opportunity to breathe fresh air and
have exposure to direct sunlight, to talk and socialize with
other inmates, to walk around, to stretch their legs, and to
enjoy the more open space.
The opportunity for in-cell exercise
The Court finds that plaintiff had the opportunity to
meaningfully exercise in his cell. In arriving at this
conclusion, the Court relies on evidence that inmates were
permitted to exercise in their cells, plaintiff‟s testimony that
he performed exercises in his cell, the testimony of inmates
Sturdivent and Stokely regarding their in-cell exercise routine,
the videos [ex. 507a-d] that show Officer McCormack performing
push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, squat thrusters and running in
place, and Dr. Ducate‟s expert testimony that plaintiff could
meaningfully exercise in his cell.
Mr. Taylor testified that the choice to exercise is a
personal one, and that he is generally in decent shape. He
further testified that in his cell he does push-ups, sometimes a
couple of hundred push-ups, and has the ability to do sit-ups,
when he is “not lazy”. He further conceded that in his cell he
would be able to do dips and leg lifts.
Stokely and Sturdivent both testified that during SRGSTM
Phase I and in other programs, they and other inmates exercised
in their cells. Stokely testified that while in Administrative
Segregation unit, whose cells are similar to the SRGSTSM cells,
he would do push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, burpees, about three
times a week for an average of 90 minutes with his roommate,
The Court credits Mr. Stokely‟s testimony that
sometimes SRGSTM inmates would do group exercises, yelling out
the exercise to be done and performing them in unison. This was
confirmed by Warden Quiros.
The videos made and introduced by defendants reveal that (1)
Officer McCormack had sufficient space in the cell to undertake
these rigorous exercises; (2) the noise made from the exercises
was not significant, and (3) Officer McCormack worked up a sweat
during the short time he undertook the exercises.
The Court assigns considerable weight to the testimony of
Dr. Ducate, an expert in correctional medicine, who knows the
plaintiff and is very familiar with his conditions of
confinement. As stated above, Dr. Ducate testified that plaintiff
can do calisthenics in his cell which, if alternated rapidly, can
provide significant cardiovascular benefits. She also gave
compelling examples of submarine officers in the Navy who,
confined to small spaces, are able to maintain an adequate level
of fitness by performing a series of calisthenics, as reflected
in Def.‟s Ex. 520, a Submarine Series- Level 1 and 2, Navy
Operational Fitness Series.
Finally, the Court rejects the assertion that plaintiff was
deterred from doing exercise in his cell, due to fear of
retaliation from other inmates because of noise or other nuisance
caused by the exercise. There is no evidence that Mr. Taylor was
prohibited or deterred from exercising in his cell. Mr. Stokely
testified that in 2007, when he was in the Security Risk Group, a
fight broke out in the recreation yard because of exercise done
in the recreation yard, but that this did not cause him to change
his in-cell exercising routine.
The justification for the deprivation
The Court finds that the record overwhelmingly supports as
valid the proffered justification for the change in the SRGSTM
Phase I recreation restraint policy. The evidence shows that the
policy was put into place to enhance safety and security at
Northern for the inmates and the prison staff following a number
of emergencies in 2009. As previously described, as early as
January 2009, a fight broke out in recreation yard between two
SRGSTM phase I inmates. This incident was followed by a series of
fights in the recreation yard involving SRGSTM Phase I inmates on
March 9, April 3, May 4, May 26, June 4, and July 16, 2009, and
assaults on staff, including the September 18, 2009 incident when
Correctional Officer Harrison was seriously assaulted by two
SRGSTM Phase I inmates after he returned one of the unrestrained
SRGSTM Phase I inmates to his cell.
The Court credits the
testimony of defendants Quiros, LaJoie and Murphy that the safety
and security of inmates and staff was a paramount concern,
prompting the review and ultimate changes to the recreation
restraint policy. The Court also credits the defendants‟
testimony that other less restrictive options were considered,
but ultimately rejected because they were impractical, too costly
or unsafe. The Court finds that the increase in violent incidents
involving SRGSTM Phase I inmates in 2009 was adequate
justification for the change in the recreation restraint policy.
Weighing the five factors, the Court concludes that
plaintiff has failed to meet his burden of demonstrating that the
policy of recreating SRGSTM Phase I inmates in the recreation
yard in handcuffs violated contemporary standards of decency or
the Eighth Amendment.
2. SUBJECTIVE ELEMENT
The subjective element of an Eighth Amendment claim requires
plaintiff to show that the defendants acted with a “sufficiently
culpable state of mind”, i.e., with “deliberate indifference to
inmate health or safety.”
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834, 114 S.Ct.
1970 (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297, 111 S.Ct.
2321, 115 L.Ed.2d 271 (1991)); Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263
(2d Cir. 2006). “Deliberate indifference is a mental state
equivalent to subjective recklessness, as the term is used in
criminal law.” Salahuddin, 467 F.3d at 280 (citing Farmer, 511
U.S. at 839–40, 114 S.Ct. 1970). Here, plaintiff has failed to
meet his burden.
The Court finds that defendants sincerely believed that
changing the restraint policy was necessary to protect inmate and
staff safety. See Salahuddin, 467 F.3d at 280 (“The defendant's
belief that his conduct poses no risk of serious harm (or an
insubstantial risk of serious harm) need not be sound so long as
it is sincere.”). Plaintiff introduced no evidence from which the
Court could conclude that defendants believed the change in
policy would result in a substantial risk of harm to plaintiff or
other inmates. Indeed, the opposite is true; the evidence shows
that defendants believed that, given the rise in violence, the no
restraint recreation policy posed more of a risk of serious harm
to inmates than the more restrictive restraint policy. See
Johnson v. Ruiz, Civ. No. 11cv542 (JCH), 2012 WL 90159 (D. Conn.
Jan. 10, 2012) (“Under Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994),
prison officials have a duty to make reasonable efforts to ensure
inmate safety. This duty includes protecting inmates from harm at
the hands of other inmates”). This conclusion is buttressed by
the fact that the policy was originally changed to allow
recreating inmates to be handcuffed in front, and made more
restrictive after inmates used the handcuffs to assault staff. As
such, plaintiff failed to satisfy the subjective element.
Even if plaintiff had adduced enough evidence to meet his
burden of proving an Eighth Amendment violation, the defendants
would be entitled to qualified immunity on this claim. The
doctrine of qualified immunity protects government official from
civil suits arising from the performance of their discretionary
functions when (1) their conduct does not violate clearly
established constitutional rights, or (2) it was objectively
reasonable for them to believe their acts did not violate those
rights. See Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982);
Lennon v. Miller, 66 F.3d 416, 420-21 (2d Cir. 1995).
There is no evidence from which the Court could conclude
that the defendants knew that the change in policy would violate
plaintiff‟s rights. On the contrary, the evidence shows that in
response to a security and safety emergency, defendants
considered several options and decided on the policy in question
because it allowed inmates to recreate while at the same time
achieving the necessary security and safety. Most importantly,
the evidence established that defendants consulted with the
Attorney General‟s office prior to implementing the restraint
policy and received approval from Assistant Attorney General
Terry O‟Neil. See Def‟s Ex. 515, Memo from Warden Quiros to
Deputy Commissioner Strange, dated October 1, 2009, stating in
part, “These policy changes and [have] been reviewed and approved
by Assistant Attorney General Terry O‟Neil.” Having consulted
with and relied on an opinion from the Attorney General‟s office,
it was objectively reasonable for the defendants to believe that
their actions did not violate plaintiff‟s rights. See Oliveira v.
Mayer, 23 F.3d 642, 648-49 (2d Cir. 1994). Therefore, qualified
immunity serves as an additional basis for the entry of judgment
in favor of the defendants.
The Court finds that plaintiff failed to prove that
defendants subjected him to conditions of confinement
constituting cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the
Eighth Amendment by adopting and implementing a policy requiring
SRGSTM Phase I inmates to recreate in handcuffs.
Accordingly, judgment is entered in favor of defendants on
This is not a recommended ruling.
The parties consented to
proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge [doc. #26] on
January 21, 2011, with appeal to the Court of Appeals.
ENTERED at Bridgeport this 29th th day of September 2012.
HOLLY B. FITZSIMMONS
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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