Ybarra v. Wells County Jail et al
OPINION AND ORDER: Clerk DIRECTED to place this cause number on a blank Prisoner Complaint form and forward it to Plaintiff Randy Russell Ybarra. Plaintiff GRANTED until 6/26/2017 to file an Amended Complaint. If Plaintiff does not respond by the deadline, this case will be dismissed. Signed by Judge Robert L Miller, Jr on 5/25/17. (Copy mailed to pro se party with copy of Order and form).(cer)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
RANDY RUSSELL YBARRA,
WELLS COUNTY JAIL, et al.,
CAUSE NO. 3:17-CV-211 RLM
OPINION AND ORDER
Randy Russell Ybarra, a pro se prisoner, filed a complaint as a result of
being placed in segregation while a pretrial detainee at the Wells County Jail. He
dues Sheriff Monty Fisher, Jail Commander Karen Thompson and the Wells
County Sheriffs Department for being placed in those conditions. The court must
review the merits of a prisoner complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous
or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
1915A. “In order to state a claim under § 1983 a plaintiff must allege: (1) that
defendants deprived him of a federal constitutional right; and (2) that the
defendants acted under color of state law.” Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670
(7th Cir. 2006). “A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se
complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007) (quotation marks and citations omitted).
On September 25, 2015, Mr. Ybarra was being held as a pretrial detainee
at the Wells County Jail. He was placed in segregation due to an investigation that
was being conducted. He complains about being placed in segregation.“A pretrial
detainee cannot be placed in segregation as a punishment for a disciplinary
infraction without notice and an opportunity to be heard; due process requires no
less. But no process is required if he is placed in segregation not as punishment
but for managerial reasons.” Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 438 (7th Cir. 2002)
(citations omitted). “[N]o process is required when a pretrial detainee is segregated
to protect jail staff and other prisoners from his violent propensities. Id.; Zarnes
v. Rhodes, 64 F.3d 285, 291–92 (7th Cir.1995).” Davis v. Schroeder, 464 F. App’x
549, 550 (7th Cir. 2012).
Mr. Ybarra explains that he was placed in segregation for one week due to
an investigation being conducted at the Wells County Jail. Mr. Ybarra doesn’t
contend that he was placed there as any sort of punishment. “[A] prison’s internal
security is peculiarly a matter normally left to the discretion of prison
administrators [because p]rison administrators 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.” Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 321–322 (1986) (quotation
marks and ellipsis omitted). Based on these allegations, it’s not plausible to find
that Mr. Ybarra’s placement in segregation was for anything other than to allow
Wells County Jail officials to conduct and complete an internal investigation,
which doesn’t violate Ybarra’s constitution rights.
Next, Mr. Ybarra alleges that he was housed in inadequate conditions while
in segregation. He says the cell didn’t have any running water or toilet, that he
wasn’t allowed to leave his cell for recreation nor allowed to use the phone, that
he remained in his cell when he became sick from withdrawal, that he had to ask
officers to provide him with water to drink and also to allow him to use the toilet,
that he had to sit in soiled clothing “for hours,” that the lights were kept on 24
hours a day, and that a camera in his cell recorded him all day. Mr. Ybarra alleges
that Jail Commander Thompson was personally aware of these conditions, but she
did nothing to remedy the situation despite his complaints.
Inmates are entitled to adequate food, clothing, shelter, bedding, hygiene
materials, and sanitation. Knight v. Wiseman, 590 F.3d 458, 463 (7th Cir. 2009).
But “the Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons . . ..” Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981). Conditions that merely cause inconveniences
and discomfort or make confinement unpleasant do not rise to the level of
Constitutional violations. Adams v. Pate, 445 F.2d 105, 108-109 (7th Cir. 1971).
Conditions of confinement must be severe to support an Eighth
Amendment claim; “the prison officials’ act or omission must result
in the denial of ‘the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.’”
Farmer [v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)] (quoting Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)). See also, Lunsford v. Bennett,
17 F.3d 1574, 1579 (7th Cir. 1994) (the Eighth Amendment only
protects prisoners from conditions that “exceed contemporary bounds
of decency of a mature, civilized society.”); Jackson [v. Duckworth,]
955 F.2d [21,] 22 [(7th Cir. 1992)].
Morissette v. Peters, 45 F.3d 1119, 1123 (7th Cir. 1995) (parallel citations
omitted). Though the conditions Mr. Ybarra describes are unpleasant, he hasn’t
alleged facts demonstrating that he was denied he minimal civilized measure of
life’s necessities. Inmates aren’t constitutionally entitled to have running water in
their cell. Williams v. Collins, No. 14 C 5275, 2015 WL 4572311 (N.D. Ill. July 29,
2015) (citing Jelinek v. Roth, No. 93-3316, 1994 WL 447266, at *2 (7th Cir. Aug.
19, 1994)). He doesn’t allege that he was denied drinking water nor the
opportunity to use the toilet when necessary. And, though he alleges that he was
placed in a cell where the lights were left on for 24 hours a day, he doesn’t
indicate how bright the lights are, nor what harm was caused by them. Neither
does he say whether he was permitted to cover his eyes to block out the light and
help him sleep. See Mathews v. Raemisch, 513 Fed. Appx. 605 (7th Cir. 2013).
Though he claims to have suffered withdrawal symptoms while in segregation, he
doesn’t allege that he was denied any necessary medical treatment. And, though
he claims to have sat in soiled clothing for hours, he doesn’t explain why his
clothes were soiled, why he had to sit in them for hours, or how many times this
occurred during the week.
As a final matter, Mr. Ybarra’s allegations against the Wells County Sheriff
Department and Sheriff Fisher don’t state a claim for relief, either. Mr. Ybarra
names Sheriff Fisher as a defendant because he oversees the jail in his role as
Sheriff of Wells County. However, because there is no general respondeat
superior liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Sheriff Fisher cannot be held liable
simply because he oversees operations at the jail or supervises other correctional
officers. Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 594 (7th Cir. 2009). Moreover, it’s not
clear why he is trying to hold the sheriff’s department liable, as opposed to some
individual who caused his injury. There are no allegations against the department
contained in the complaint.
This complaint doesn’t state a constitutional claim against any defendant.
The court will give Mr. Ybarra a chance to replead his claims if he believes he can
state a claim. Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1022-1023, 1025
(7th Cir. 2013). Any amended complaint should address the deficiencies the court
has discussed. He should explain in his own words what happened, when it
happened, where it happened, who was involved, and how he was personally
injured by the conditions he describes, providing as much detail as possible.
For the foregoing reasons, the court:
(1) DIRECTS the clerk to place this cause number on a blank
Prisoner Complaint form and sent it to Randy Russell Ybarra; and
(2) GRANTS Randy Russell Ybarra to and including June 26, 2017,
to file an amended complaint.
If Mr. Ybarra doesn’t respond by June 26, this case will be dismissed pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915A because this complaint doesn’t state a claim for which relief
can be granted.
ENTERED: May 25 , 2017.
/s/ Robert L. Miller, Jr.
United States District Court
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