Vasquez, Luis et al v. Braemer, Daniel et al
ORDER granting 56 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 67 Motion to Stay ; denying 67 Motion to Compel; denying 68 Motion for Assistance in Recruiting Counsel and to Appoint Expert; granting 89 , 98 Motions for Leave to File. The clerk of court is directed to enter judgment for defendants and close this case. Signed by District Judge Barbara B. Crabb on 8/13/2013. (jef),(ps)
Vasquez, Luis et al v. Braemer, Daniel et al
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - LUIS VASQUEZ, DAVID GREENWOOD,
JAVIER SALAZAR, JULIAN LOPEZ
and ANTHONY RIACH,
OPINION and ORDER
DANIEL BRAEMER, DON STRAHOTA,
WILLIAM POLLARD, PAMELA ZANK
and MICHAEL THURMER,
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - This is a group civil action for monetary and injunctive relief brought under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 by plaintiffs Luis Vasquez, David Greenwood, Javier Salazar, Julian Lopez and
Anthony Riach regarding the allegedly harsh conditions of administrative confinement at the
Waupun Correctional Institution. Plaintiffs contend that defendants Daniel Braemer, Don
Strahota, William Pollard, Pamela Zank and Michael Thurmer acted with deliberate
indifference to plaintiffs’ health and safety by subjecting them to conditions of confinement
that deprived them of basic human needs, exacerbated their mental illnesses and caused
them to experience numerous physical health problems.
Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment, in which they contend that
plaintiffs have not adduced evidence that their conditions of confinement were
unconstitutional or that defendants were aware that the conditions posed a serious risk of
harm to plaintiffs. Dkt. #56. Plaintiffs responded initially by filing a motion to stay
briefing so that they could obtain declarations from other prisoners who were confined in
the segregation unit at the Waupun Correctional Institution. Dkt. #67. They also asked
that briefing on the motion be stayed pending the court’s ruling on plaintiffs’ pending
motions regarding discovery issues and for appointment of counsel or a medical expert. Id.;
dkt. #68. Subsequently, after receiving two deadline extensions, plaintiffs filed a brief in
opposition to defendants’ motion, responses to defendants’ proposed findings of fact,
additional proposed findings of fact and supporting evidence, including several declarations
from other prisoners. After defendants filed their reply brief, plaintiffs filed a motion for
leave to file a sur-reply, along with a brief and additional evidence. Dkt. #98.
As discussed below, I am denying plaintiffs’ motion for appointment of counsel or an
expert and am denying plaintiffs’ motion regarding discovery issues. I am also denying
plaintiffs’ motion for additional time to respond to defendants’ motion for summary
judgment. However, I will consider plaintiffs’ sur-reply and the evidence they filed after
Although plaintiffs’ arguments about the problems that can arise when mentally ill
inmates are housed in isolation with little human interaction or sensory stimulation are ones
that elicit sympathy and concern and although there is undoubtedly room for improvement
of the conditions of confinement in administrative segregation at the Waupun Correctional
Institution, I will grant defendants’ motion for summary judgment because liability under
the Eighth Amendment requires a showing that defendants consciously disregarded
substantial risks of serious harm to plaintiffs. In this case, plaintiffs have not shown that the
conditions of administrative confinement deprived them of basic human needs or posed risks
of serious harm to them. Moreover, plaintiffs have not shown that even if they had been so
deprived or were at risk of harm, defendants were aware of the harm or deprivation.
Therefore, defendants cannot be held liable under the Constitution.
As part of their motion to stay summary judgment proceedings, plaintiffs asked that
defendants be compelled to respond to certain discovery requests. Dkt. #67. However, after
reviewing the specific discovery requests, I conclude that defendants’ responses were
justified. In particular:
Plaintiffs asked defendants to identify the dates and times that plaintiff
Vasquez left his cell during the time he was in segregation. Defendants
refused on the ground that the request was overly broad and burdensome
because Vasquez has been on some type of segregation status for most of his
incarceration, starting in January 2000. Dkt. #67-3 at ¶ 1. This response is
reasonable. Moreover, it is undisputed that inmates on segregation do not
leave their cells very often, so this information would not create any genuine
factual dispute relevant to defendants’ summary judgment motion.
Plaintiffs asked defendants to admit that plaintiffs took certain medications
or had certain medical conditions, and defendants responded on the grounds
that they lacked knowledge about plaintiffs’ medical conditions. Id. at ¶¶ 1316, 28-30; dkt. #67-4 at ¶¶ 14-15. Plaintiffs object to this response, but
defendants are not medical providers and did not have access to plaintiffs’
Plaintiffs asked defendants to produce medical records, records related to their
confinement in administrative segregation and photographs of the institution.
Dkt. #67-3 at ¶¶ 7-10, 12-15. Plaintiffs also asked defendants to admit to
certain facts about the physical layout of the segregation unit. Dkt. #67-4 at
¶¶ 6, 10, 12. Defendants responded that plaintiffs could make an institution
request to review their own medical records, social services files and legal files.
With respect to the photographs, defendants responded that no such
photographs existed. These responses are reasonable, as defendants are
required only to make records available to plaintiffs, not to provide copies of
records or create photographs. Further, because there is no dispute between
the parties about the layout of the segregation unit, photographs would not
have created a genuine factual dispute material to defendants’ motion for
summary judgment. Defendants’ objections to the request for admissions
related to the physical layout of the segregation unit are also immaterial to the
summary judgment disputes.
Plaintiffs also argued that they needed additional time to obtain declarations from
other inmates who were housed in the segregation unit at the Waupun Correctional
Institution. However, in addition to their own declarations, plaintiffs submitted declarations
from eight inmates, describing conditions of confinement in segregation. Plaintiffs do not
explain what additional information could be provided through inmate declarations or how
that information would be relevant to the disputed issues in this case. As explained already,
the parties have no material dispute about the conditions of confinement in segregation.
Rather, as discussed later in this opinion, this case boils down to whether plaintiffs can prove
that particular conditions caused them to suffer physical and mental distress and whether
defendants understood those facts, but ignored them. Plaintiffs do not suggest that any
other inmate declaration would have bearing on these issues.
MOTION FOR ASSISTANCE IN RECRUITING COUNSEL OR EXPERT
In response to defendants’ motion for summary judgment, plaintiffs filed a renewed
motion for assistance in recruiting counsel or in the alternative, a motion for appointment
of an impartial medical expert. Dkt. #68. Plaintiffs’ primary argument is that they need a
medical expert to respond adequately to defendants’ arguments and to prevail on their
claims, but they cannot afford one. Plaintiffs argue that if the court helped them to find a
lawyer, the lawyer could find a medical expert to testify on plaintiffs’ behalf.
alternative, the court could simply find a medical expert to testify about the issues in this
Litigants in civil cases do not have a constitutional right to a lawyer. Nonetheless,
as Magistrate Judge Crocker explained to plaintiffs previously, the court would appoint a
lawyer to almost every pro se plaintiff if lawyers were available to take the cases. This court
handles more than 200 new pro se lawsuits every year, but there are many fewer lawyers who
are willing and qualified to accept a pro bono assignment to a prisoner lawsuit. As a result,
I have no choice but to limit recruitment of counsel to those cases in which it is clear under
the applicable legal test that the plaintiff must have the assistance of a lawyer. To determine
whether assistance in recruiting counsel is appropriate in a particular case, courts must
review the record and consider whether the legal and factual difficulty of the case exceeds the
plaintiffs’ demonstrated ability to prosecute it. Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 654 (7th Cir.
Because this is a multi-plaintiff case dealing with questions about the relationship
between conditions of confinement and physical and mental health, it is relatively complex.
Nonetheless, plaintiffs have shown themselves throughout this case to be capable advocates
for themselves. In fact, plaintiffs’ submissions are on par with submissions I have seen from
licensed attorneys in cases of similar complexity. Plaintiff Vasquez in particular has had
substantial experience litigating cases in this court, including representing himself in three
jury trials, Vasquez v. Raemisch, 06-cv-743-bbc; Vasquez v. Hilbert, 07-cv-723-slc; Vasquez
v. Nickel, 07-cv-724-bbc, and has demonstrated his ability to understand court procedures,
gather and present evidence and respond coherently to legal arguments. Plaintiffs engaged
in discovery and managed to submit an impressive amount of evidence regarding their
conditions of confinement and their mental and physical health. They responded properly
to defendants’ proposed findings of fact and prepared their own proposed findings following
this court’s procedures and supported by declarations and exhibits. Their legal arguments
are logical, well researched and supported by up-to-date legal citations and their submissions
demonstrate that they have a clear grasp of the relevant legal and factual issues. Nothing in
the materials indicates that plaintiffs suffer from mental deficiencies that have affected their
ability to litigate this case.
Although plaintiffs struggled to comply with the court’s
deadlines, they were afforded numerous deadline extensions and I have considered all of
plaintiffs’ evidence and arguments, including those that were untimely.
The real issue is not that plaintiffs are incapable of prosecuting this case on their own,
but that plaintiffs cannot afford to pay for an expert to testify on their behalf. Plaintiffs are
correct that having an expert to testify for them could have made their claims stronger and
may have helped them at the summary judgment stage. This is true in most prisoner cases
involving medical or mental health care. However, the court of appeals has never held that
it is appropriate to appoint counsel simply to shift the burden of finding and paying for an
expert from plaintiffs to counsel. Further, there is no guarantee that counsel could have
found an expert to offer opinions favorable to plaintiffs. As discussed later in this opinion,
plaintiffs needed expert testimony to prove that their conditions of confinement caused the
specific physical and mental health problems about which they complain and that changes
to the conditions of confinement would have made a difference to plaintiffs’ health. Counsel
may or may not have been able to find an expert to offer such opinions; regardless, I decline
to appoint counsel on that basis. And, although the court may have the power to appoint
an expert at defendants' expense in a particular case, Ledford v. Sullivan, 105 F.3d 354, 361
(7th Cir. 1997), I am not persuaded that it would be appropriate to do so in this case
because plaintiffs have not shown that they tried and failed to obtain an expert and it is not
clear from the record that an expert would substantially aid the court in adjudicating this
matter. (Notably, expert testimony would not have been particularly useful with respect to
the deliberate indifference element of plaintiffs’ claim, which focuses on defendants’
subjective intent.) Therefore, I am denying plaintiffs’ motion for appointment of counsel
or for recruitment of an expert.
From the parties’ proposed findings of fact and the record, I find the following facts
to be material and undisputed.
A. The Parties
The five plaintiffs in this action, Luis Vasquez, David Greenwood, Javier Salazar,
Julian Lopez and Anthony Riach, are all inmates of the Wisconsin Department of
Corrections. At times relevant to this action, they were all housed on administrative
confinement in the segregation unit at Waupun Correctional Institution.
Defendant Michael Thurmer was the warden at Waupun until January 5, 2011.
Defendant William Pollard replaced him in April 2011. Defendant Donald Strahota was
the Waupun security director; he has been the Waupun deputy warden since August 28,
2011. Defendant Pamela Zank was the Waupun corrections program supervisor. Defendant
Daniel Braemer is a Waupun lieutenant responsible for assisting in the coordination of all
security operations in Waupun’s segregation unit. None of the defendants are physicians
or psychologists and none are qualified to provide psychological services to inmates.
B. Administrative Confinement
Administrative confinement is an involuntary, nonpunitive, segregated status assigned
to inmates that are believed to be incapable of living in general population. Regulations
relating to administrative confinement are set forth in § DOC 308 of the Wisconsin
Administrative Code. Under the regulations, inmates can be placed in administrative
confinement if an administrative confinement review committee determines that the
inmate’s “continued presence in general population poses a serious threat to life, property,
self, staff, or other inmates, or to the security of the institution.” Wis. Admin. Code. DOC
§ 308.01. The committee consists of three members appointed by the warden: one from
security staff, one from treatment staff and a supervisor.
Generally, an inmate is reviewed for possible administrative confinement assignment
when he is transferred into the prison and when he is nearing the end of a term of
disciplinary segregation. If the security director believes that an inmate’s behavioral history
meets the criteria for placement in administrative confinement, he assigns the program
lieutenant to conduct the review. If the lieutenant concludes that the inmate should be
placed in administrative confinement, he can make a recommendation to the administrative
confinement committee which will, in turn, determine whether administrative confinement
is necessary. An inmate is placed in administrative confinement if the committee members
agree unanimously on the placement. If the committee members are not unanimous, the
warden makes the final decision. Inmates have the right to appeal the committee’s decision
to the warden.
The committee is required to review an inmate’s progress in administrative
confinement at least every six months and the committee and warden must review the
confinement decision at least every 12 months. The committee may make recommendations
regarding possible release from administrative confinement on the basis of positive behavior,
including a lack of major conduct reports, participation in the in-cell New Freedom Program
and participation in individual and group therapy.
At the Waupun Correctional Institution, inmates are placed on administrative
confinement without regard to the inmate’s mental health history or status and without
contacting mental health professionals for input or recommendations. Additionally, an
inmate’s administrative confinement may be continued without consideration of their
mental health status. The psychological services unit and health services unit sometimes
provide information to security staff relating to inmates in segregation. A segregation review
team consisting of the program supervisor, available psychological services staff, a health
services staff member, a social worker and available unit staff meets almost every week to
discusses inmates in the segregation unit with mental health or behavioral issues. The team
reviews the status of each inmate in segregation at least once a month and makes
recommendations as to the inmate’s status.
C. Conditions in the Segregation Unit
Waupun Correctional Institution has one segregation unit that houses
approximately 180 inmates. Inmates on administrative confinement status are housed in
the segregation unit.
In addition, the segregation hall houses inmates on adjustment
segregation, controlled segregation, disciplinary separation, observation status, program
segregation, protective confinement and temporary lockup status.
Inmates in the segregation unit are frequently confined to their cells for 23 or 24
hours a day. The cells in the segregation unit are approximately 66 square feet, with three
brick walls and a sliding steel door. The door has a small trap through which trays and
medication are passed and one observation window, approximately 5 1/4 inches by 18
inches, that provides a limited view of the hall outside the door. In the hall outside the cell
door, a concrete wall runs down the center of the segregation wing, with intermittent breaks
in the wall. The wall is designed to reduce noise and to prevent the transfer of contraband
and has the effect of limiting inmates from seeing and communicating with other inmates
in the unit.
The only fixtures in the cells are a concrete structure on which a mattress is placed,
a concrete shelf that provides a writing surface, a stainless steel sink and toilet. The cell also
has an intercom for emergency situations. Mounted on the wall is a polished wall plate that
is used as a mirror. Every cell has a window that is approximately 5 inches by 37 inches.
Until 2011, the windows were frosted glass that prevented plaintiffs from viewing the
outside environment and allowed in little natural sunlight or warmth. In 2011 the windows
were replaced with clear windows that allow the inmate a view of the outside and sunlight
to enter the cell. The light fixture in the cell has four fluorescent tubes, with one 5-watt light
that is illuminated at all times for safety and security purposes.
Movement, property and privileges are highly controlled. Inmates are strip searched
prior to coming into segregation and before going into observation or control status to insure
they have no contraband or items that could be used to cause disruption or self harm. Prison
staff members inspect mail, search cells frequently and conduct daily rounds of the
segregation unit to make sure inmates are visible and not causing self harm. Prisoners in
the segregation unit have only limited opportunities to leave their cells. They can leave for
a shower two times a week, can attend recreation up to four hours each week and can leave
their cells for group activities and programs, medical appointments, visits and legal study.
Inmates can participate in out of cell programming and counseling, though there can be a
long waiting list for certain programs. Each time an inmate leaves his cell, he must be wear
restraints and must be escorted by prison officers.
Inmates are allowed and encouraged to exercise in their cells, and the segregation
handbook outlines an in-cell fitness program for inmates. Inmates are also encouraged to
take part in recreation outside the cell when it is offered, but inmates in segregation cannot
engage in outdoor or group recreation. Instead, recreation for inmates in segregation takes
place in a specific segregation recreation area that contains six recreation cells, varying in size
from approximately 9 feet x 6 feet to 6 1/2 feet x 12 feet. The cells have openings toward
the top that are covered with wire and allow in natural light and air. They are not heated
or cooled and are subject to the weather, which means they can be very hot in the summer
and cold in the winter and fall. Once the inmate is placed in the recreation cell, his
restraints are removed and the inmate gets an hour of recreation, up to four times a week.
Before 2011, the cells had no exercise equipment. Starting sometime in 2011, the cells were
equipped with a dip bar, pull up bar, an apparatus for doing knee raises, hacky sacks and
basketballs. Some inmates have difficulty using the exercise equipment because of physical
or mental health conditions or because they believe their shoes do not provide them
adequate support. Inmates can communicate with each other during recreation, although
social communication and interaction can be difficult when there are loud and disruptive
inmates in the recreation cells.
Inmates in segregation have very little human contact. They are not allowed outside
the segregation building unless they have court appearances or off-site medical
appointments. They may be able to see prison personnel when meal trays, medications and
daily supplies are handed out and when staff walk by cells to transport other inmates, but
prison officials rarely communicate with the inmates in segregation at such times. Inmates
may interact with officers conducting rounds and may communicate with prison staff if they
are having a medical problem. However, it can be difficult to communicate with staff
because the segregation unit is often noisy, with inmates kicking and pounding on cell doors,
engaging in loud conversations, screaming, whistling and arguing for long periods of time.
Inmates on administrative confinement status are allowed one ten-minute call each week and
four two-hour video visits each month. They are not allowed contact visits. The visitation
in the segregation unit consists of the inmate sitting in a booth watching a television monitor
while the visitor is in a booth in the visit center watching a television monitor. Inmates are
allowed to correspond in writing with family and friends.
Inmates in segregation may request “legal recreation” once a week. Legal recreation
takes place in the segregation electronic law libraries, where the inmate is tethered with a
short strap to a metal table and directed to sit and remain seated on a metal stool. Only one
inmate is allowed in the law library at a time.
Inmates in segregation are subject to limits on the amount and type of property they
can keep in their cells.
They may possess hygiene products, canteen items, clothing,
bedding, legal property, reading materials, religious items and certain personal items such
as eyeglasses, a wedding ring and photography. All inmates except those on observation or
control status receive socks, underwear, a T-shirt, orange pants and shirt, a face cloth, hand
towel, sheets and blankets. They are all provided the same canvas slip-on shoes with rubber
soles. These shoes are not stiff or bulky, so they are easily searchable and are less likely to
injure staff. They also have no laces, which reduces the risk that an inmate will use laces to
harm himself. However, some inmates find that the shoes provide inadequate support for
certain exercises. Inmates in segregation are given clean undergarments, shirts and socks at
least twice a week. Some inmates choose not to exercise everyday because they do not want
to soil their clothes. Inmates may posses three library books at a time and three grocery bags
of legal and other paperwork. Inmates on administrative confinement may possess the
maximum amount of property allowed in segregation. Medical requirements can alter
property allowances. For example, if an inmate needs an insert or a different kind of shoe
for medical reasons, the health services unit can fill out a special needs form.
Staff working in the segregation unit receive crisis intervention training and the
prison has policies regarding how staff should respond to incidents of self -harm. An inmate
may be placed in observation status when he threatens or engages in self-harming behavior.
While in observation an inmate is closely monitored by security and psychological services
D. Plaintiffs’ Administrative Confinement
1. Plaintiff Louis Vasquez
Plaintiff Vasquez was housed in segregation at the Waupun Correctional Institution
from December 20, 2002 to December 2, 2011. Vasquez was held on administrative
confinement status nearly continuously from December 14, 2007 until November 29, 2011,
with some breaks during times in which he was on “adjustment segregation” status.
Defendant Braemer recommended administrative confinement initially because Vasquez is
serving a life sentence for violent offenses and had received 14 major conduct reports in
prison for offenses including conspiracy to commit a riot and physical assaults of prison staff
and other inmates.
The administrative confinement review committee and Wardens
Thurmer and Pollard agreed that Vasquez posed too great a risk to others to be housed in
general population. Neither Braemer, the committee nor the wardens considered Vasquez’s
mental health when reviewing his conduct reports or his placement on administrative
Vasquez’s placement was reviewed periodically by the committee and
segregation review team and the placement was continued on several occasions.
Vasquez has a history of serious mental illness and has diagnoses of “psychogenic
disorder,” anxiety disorder with some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and a
major depression disorder for which he received anti-depressant medication throughout his
time on administrative confinement. Dkt. ##76-1, 76-2. In October 2009, Vasquez
attempted to hang himself in his segregation cell using dental floss. He ended up falling on
the floor and hitting his head on the brick wall. He then began biting himself and called
staff. Dkt. #76-4 at 2. He was taken to Waupun Memorial Hospital for medical treatment
and was placed on observation status upon his return.
Vasquez told his doctors on several occasions that his status in administrative
confinement was exacerbating his depression and making him feel unmotivated. He told this
to Dr. Gene Braaksma during a psychological appointment in March 2010 and to Dr. Todd
Callister during appointments in September and November 2010. Dkt. #76-1 at 3; Dkt.
#76-2 at 3-4. He also told Dr. Braaksma that the lack of exercise opportunities was causing
him pain in his joints and he told Callister that he was feeling suicidal. Dkt. #76-1 at 3. On
May 23, 2011, Vasquez told Dr. Ryan Tobiasz during a psychological appointment that his
lengthy administrative confinement placement was causing him stress and depression and
was making it difficult to sleep or enjoy life. Id. at 4. Vasquez told his doctors that his
family did not want to visit him because they did not like seeing him through a video screen.
Vasquez also told defendants on several occasions that he believed administrative
confinement was having negative affects on his physical and mental health. In March 2010,
he wrote to the segregation review team and to defendant Braemer, asking them to release
him from segregation at his upcoming review before the administrative confinement
committee. He stated in his letters that his prolonged confinement in the segregation setting
was exacerbating his mental illness, interfering with his mental health treatment and causing
him serious physical harm, diseases and functional impairment. Dkt. #76-5 at 1-4. After
the administrative confinement committee decided to continue his administrative
confinement, Vasquez wrote Braemer again, in May 2010, stating that the decision was
exacerbating his mental illness, causing him extreme mental and emotional distress and
depression, anxiety, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. He asked Braemer to transfer him
to the behavioral health unit so that he could receive better mental health treatment. Id. at
On November 3, 2011, prison psychologist Dr. Braaksma wrote to the administrative
confinement committee to provide an “update on his work” with Vasquez. Dkt. #99-2. He
stated that Vasquez had been an active and positive member of a “seg monitoring group”
and had been working on the “New Freedom” materials. Id. On May 11, 2011, Dr.
Braaksma sent another update to the committee, stating that Vasquez had completed the
New Freedom materials, continued to participate in the clinical monitoring group and
“show[ed] consistent, positive behaviors.” Id. at 3.
On June 14 and 15, 2011, Vasquez wrote defendants Pollard, Strahota and Braemer,
stating that it was unconstitutional to house mentally ill inmates in administrative
confinement for indefinite terms and that the lack of adequate mental health care, exercise,
sunlight, visits, personal property and socialization had exacerbated his mental illness and
physical health problems and caused him major depression and suicidal thoughts. Dkt. #765 at 7-11. He asked that he be released from administrative confinement and also asked
Pollard to institute new policies that would require mentally ill inmates on administrative
confinement to be housed in the behavioral health unit or the north cell hall. Id.
On June 17, 2011, defendant Pollard responded to Vasquez’s letter by stating that
Vasquez should use the inmate complaint procedures if he wished to complain about
conditions of his confinement. Defendant Strahota responded on June 27, stating that he
was not responsible for processing appeals of administrative confinement placement and that
the Wisconsin Administrative Code dictated administrative confinement placement rules.
Defendant Braemer did not respond.
On July 17, 2011, Vasquez told staff he was going to kill himself because he was upset
that defendant Pollard had denied his appeal of administrative confinement and he would
rather die than live another day in segregation. Staff called for help and at the same time,
Vasquez looped dental floss around his neck, tied it to the vent and jumped from his sink.
The floss broke and Vasquez fell to the floor. Vasquez then swallowed a tube of antifungal
cream. Staff entered the cell and placed Vasquez on observation and suicide watch. Dkt.
##76-1 at 5; 76-4 at 5. Vasquez met with Dr. Callister a couple of days later and told
Callister that he was disappointed his suicide attempts were unsuccessful and that he was
still feeling suicidal because of his stay in segregation. Dkt. #76-2 at 5. Vasquez also told
Dr. Callister that he felt “worthless, lonely, unloved, depressed and suicidal all the time.”
On August 8, 2011, Vasquez sent defendant Braemer an information request form,
complaining that his ongoing administrative confinement status and the conditions of
segregation were affecting his mental and physical health. Dkt. #76-5 at 17. He asked the
segregation review team to remove him from administrative confinement and place him in
the behavioral health unit. Braemer responded that the segregation review team “does not
recommend removal . . . it is not our place to do so.”
Vasquez met with Dr. Callister again on November 3, 2011, and Dr. Callister noted
that Vasquez was doing poorly, felt depressed and hopeless and had lost interest in exercising
and staying healthy because of his life sentence and prolonged stay in segregation. Dkt.
#76-2 at 6.
Dr. Callister noted that Vasquez’s depression appeared to be “largely
situational.” Id. That same day, Dr. Callister sent a memorandum to defendant Braemer
stating, “I see Mr. Vasquez monthly in psychiatric appointments. He continues to exhibit
depression, which is largely situational. It is my opinion that at this time his status in
administrative confinement is detrimental to him from an emotional standpoint. I believe
it is likely that confinement in a less restrictive setting would be of benefit to him
psychologically.” Id. at 7. On November 9, Braemer recommended to the administrative
confinement committee that Vasquez remain in administrative confinement because of his
history of disruptive and assaultive behavior. The committee agreed and recommended
continued administrative confinement, but on review, defendant Warden Pollard disagreed,
noting that Vasquez’s behavior had improved and he had participated in programs while in
On November 29, 2011, Pollard released Vasquez from
Vasquez had difficultly transitioning to general population and in January 2012 his
treating psychologist recommended that he be transferred to Wisconsin Resource Center for
treatment. Dkt. #76-1 at 8. He was transferred to Wisconsin Resource Center in April
2012. Later that month, he was placed in general population at Waupun. He is currently
back in segregation after being found guilty of battery.
2. Plaintiff David Greenwood
Plaintiff David Greenwood is housed in general population at the Waupun
Correctional Institution. He was housed in segregation from August 2009 until December
2011, and was held on administrative confinement status from September 28, 2010 until
December 7, 2011, with one interruption for disciplinary segregation. Defendant Braemer
recommended the initial placement in administrative confinement because of Greenwood’s
long sentence for a violent crime and history of physical assaults of inmates and threats to
assault prison staff.
The administrative confinement review committee agreed that
Greenwood’s presence in general population posed a risk to others and to institution
Plaintiff Greenwood has a history of mental illness and has diagnoses of adjustment
disorder, impulse control disorder and antisocial personality disorder. Dkt. ##86-2, 86-3.
He received medication for his mental disorders during his time in administrative
confinement. On January 7, 2010, while he was housed in segregation, Greenwood tied a
sheet around his neck, stood on top of the sink and yelled, “I’m going to commit suicide, I
got a noose around my neck.” Staff entered his cell and placed him in observation. Dkt.
#86-1 at 1-2.
During his psychological appointments, Greenwood expressed frustration and
depression regarding his placement in administrative confinement. Dkt. #86-2 at 2. On
December 23, 2010, during a psychiatric appointment with Dr. Callister, Greenwood
reported that he was doing poorly, was upset and frustrated because of his administrative
confinement and that he was having thoughts of harming himself. Dr. Callister noted that
Greenwood’s mood was angry and stated that “most of his reported symptoms are related
to a lengthy segregation stay.” Dkt. #86-3.
On March 30, 2011, Greenwood covered his window, put his mattress against the
door, tied his bed sheet into a noose and placed it around his neck, threatening to strangle
himself. Staff intervened and moved Greenwood to an observation cell. Dkt. #86-1 at 8-9.
He met with psychological services that same day and told Dr. Braaksma that he was
frustrated with his continuation in administrative confinement and had decided life was not
worth living. Dkt. #86-2 at 1.
At a psychiatric appointment on September 1, 2011, Greenwood told Dr. Callister
that segregation was “really getting to [him],” that he was tense and upset all the time,
frequently had aggressive thoughts, sometime thought of suicide and was having difficulty
maintaining good behavior. Dr. Callister noted that Greenwood was “having difficulty
adjusting to what has become a lengthy [administrative confinement]. He has limited coping
skills and characterological traits are likely amplified in the isolated environment of seg.”
Dkt. #86-3 at 2.
3. Plaintiff Javier Salazar
Plaintiff Javier Salazar was held in administrative confinement from December 23,
2008 until November 11, 2011, with two interruptions for disciplinary and program
segregation. Defendant Braemer recommended the placement because of Salazar’s long
sentence for a violent crime, conduct history, his leadership role in the Latin Kings street
gang and his attempts to start a pyramid scheme while he was incarcerated.
Plaintiff Salazar has diagnoses of obsessive compulsive disorder, adjustment disorder
with depressed mood and antisocial personality disorder and he has received medications for
his disorders while in administrative confinement. Dkt. #88-1. He has suffered from
mental health problems since at least 2004. Dkt. #99-4. On July 28, 2011, Salazar
submitted an information request asking why he was being housed in punitive conditions
and why prisoners with mental illnesses were being housed in segregation cells.
Defendant Braemer responded by stating that Salazar should “contact the security director.”
Id. In September 2012, Salazar was transferred to the Wisconsin Resource Center for
treatment and help with transition to general population.
4. Plaintiff Julian Lopez
Plaintiff Julian Lopez has been on administrative confinement status from May 2010
until the present and has resided on the Waupun segregation unit continuously since March
10, 2009. Defendant Braemer recommended placing Lopez on administrative confinement
initially because of his long sentence for violent crimes, history of assaulting other inmates
and his leadership involvement in the Spanish Cobras gang that included placing a hit on
He has remained on confinement status in part because he has not
participated in any groups or treatment programs and the committee concluded that he
appeared unmotivated to change his behavior.
Lopez has a diagnosis of a major depressive disorder and received medication to treat
his depression before and during administrative confinement. Dkt. ##87-1; 87-2. At a
psychiatric appointment on April 18, 2013, he told Dr. Callister that he was not doing well
and that administrative confinement was getting to him. He also said he had suicidal
thoughts and anxiety attacks. Dkt. #87-2.
5. Plaintiff Anthony Riach
Plaintiff Anthony Riach is housed at the Wisconsin Resource Center. He was held
in administrative confinement at the Waupun prison from April 21, 2010 until November
7, 2012. Defendant Braemer recommended the placement because Riach was serving a life
sentence and had received more than 30 conduct reports, including ones for threatening to
kill or injure staff members and mailing an unknown powder to the Waukesha County
District Attorney’s Office.
Plaintiff Riach had diagnoses of major depressive disorder, social phobia,
polysubstance abuse and antisocial personality disorder before his administrative
confinement status and he received medication and treatment for his mental health problems
during administrative confinement. Dkt. #88-3. On August 3, 2011, Riach submitted
information requests asking why he was being held in administrative confinement for so long
when he should be housed in a special management unit where he could receive better
treatment for his mental illnesses. Dkt. #99-4. He also asked why he was not allowed
outdoor recreation and stated that he was more depressed than he had been in a long time.
Id. On August 15, 2011, Riach submitted an information request again asking why he was
being denied outside recreation and stating that he needed more exercise opportunities. Id.
(The responses Riach received are nearly illegible, but it appears that defendant Braemer
responded to the information requests stating that “[r]ecreation is given to where you are
housed,” and “PSU files [psychological services unit] not for seg hearing.” Id.) In a letter
written on March 22, 2012, prison psychologist Dr. Braaksma wrote a letter to the
administrative confinement committee regarding an upcoming evaluation of Riach’s
He wrote that Riach had been a positive influence in the
administrative confinement treatment group and that Riach had “achieved maximum benefit
from the programming available.” He also stated that Riach “would benefit psychologically
from a transition toward General Population, possibly by way of [the behavioral health
unit]” and that “[s]uch a transition would allow him to be monitored effectively during
transition . . . .” Id. The committee decided to continue Riach’s administrative confinement
until he was eventually released in November 2012. He was transferred to the Wisconsin
Resource Center in November 2012 to assist with transition to general population.
Plaintiffs contend that defendants violated their constitutional right not to be subject
to cruel and unusual punishment by housing them for prolonged periods under harsh
conditions that caused them to suffer various physical health problems and exacerbated their
mental illnesses. All of plaintiffs’ claims are governed by the Eighth Amendment, which
entitles incarcerated persons to confinement under humane conditions that provide for their
“basic human needs.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). This means inmates
must receive adequate food, clothing, shelter and medical care. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 832 (1994). Additionally, the Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to protect
incarcerated persons from substantial risks of serious harm, Rice ex rel. Rice v. Correctional
Medical Services, 675 F.3d 650, 669 (7th Cir. 2012), including the risk that they will suffer
a mental health breakdown, engage in self-harm or commit suicide. Cavalieri v. Shepard,
321 F.3d 616, 620 (7th Cir. 2003); Jones ‘El v. Berge, 164 F. Supp. 2d 1096, 1117 (W.D.
A claim that the conditions of an inmate’s confinement were constitutionally
inadequate has two elements. First, the prisoner must show that the adverse conditions were
“sufficiently serious,” to deprive the prisoner of a “minimal civilized measure of life's
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; Chapman, 452 U.S. at 347.
A condition of
confinement may be serious enough to rise to a constitutional violation on its own or
multiple conditions of confinement may have a “mutually enforcing effect” that results in
“the deprivation of a single, identifiable human need” such as food, warmth, or exercise.
Budd v. Motley, 711 F.3d 840, 843 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294,
304 (1991)). If the prisoner can show that conditions of confinement were sufficiently
serious, he must then show that the prison officials were “deliberately indifferent to the
adverse conditions.” Rice, 675 F.3d at 665. An official is deliberately indifferent when he
is subjectively aware of the condition or danger complained of, but consciously disregards
Plaintiffs complain about a number of conditions in administrative confinement,
including severe restrictions on activities (recreation, showers, library, property), limited
social interaction (visitation rights, segregated cells, few group activities), insufficient access
to natural sunlight and the lack of opportunities for prison employment. Defendants do not
deny that these conditions exist; in fact, there are no material disputes between the parties
about the conditions of confinement for inmates on administrative confinement status.
However, the parties do disagree about whether these conditions are sufficiently serious to
deprive plaintiffs of basic human needs.
A. Exercise, Sunlight and Sanitation
Plaintiffs argue that the conditions of administrative confinement deprived them of
access to the basic needs of exercise, sanitation and clothing, but plaintiffs have not
submitted evidence to support their argument. “Lack of exercise may rise to a constitutional
violation in extreme and prolonged situations where movement is denied to the point that
the inmate’s health is threatened.” Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1432 (7th Cir.
1996). However, plaintiffs have failed to submit any evidence that they were denied exercise
for long periods of time, that their health was threatened by their inability to exercise more
or that defendants were personally responsible for any deprivation of exercise. Although
plaintiffs state that they wanted to exercise outside in the yard with other inmates, they do
not deny that they were prohibited from exercising outside with others because of their past
behavior and do not argue that it was unreasonable for defendants to separate them from
others during recreation. Pearson v. Ramos, 237 F.3d 881, 885 (7th Cir. 2001) (“Preventing
access to the yard was a reasonable method of protecting the staff and the other prisoners
from [plaintiff’s] violent propensities.”). Further, the evidence in the record shows that
plaintiffs had opportunities for exercise.
It is undisputed that plaintiffs could attend
recreation out of their cells four times a week and could engage in an in-cell exercise program
as described in the segregation manual. Although plaintiffs sometimes chose not to exercise
because they did not want to soil their clothes or their shoes provided insufficient support
for certain exercises or they were unmotivated, plaintiffs have not adduced evidence from
which a jury could conclude that defendants deprived plaintiffs of the opportunity to
exercise, particularly where plaintiffs produced no facts showing that the recreation cells were
unusable, that their own cells were too small for exercise, that their shoes prevented them
from performing any exercises or that they requested and were denied different shoes from
their medical providers. Compare Harris v. Fleming, 839 F.2d 1232, 1236 (7th Cir. 1988)
(finding no violation where inmate was denied yard time for four weeks but could move
about in his segregation cell by doing pushups, aerobics or jogging in place), with Delaney
v. DeTella, 256 F.3d 679, 684 (7th Cir. 2001) (inmate stated constitutional claim after he
was denied any exercise out of his cell during six-month term in segregation and his cell was
too small to allow any meaningful chance to exercise).
See also Turner v. Hamblin,
12-CV-179-BBC, 2012 WL 3070684, *5 (W.D. Wis. July 30, 2012) (denying inmate leave
to proceed on claim that four hours of exercise outside segregation cells violated
Additionally, although plaintiffs contend that they suffered myriad physical health
problems because of their inability to exercise and their lack of access to natural sunlight,
plaintiffs have produced insufficient evidence to support this.
Plaintiffs state in their
declarations that they suffered from hypertension, hyperlipidemia, high cholesterol, poor
circulation, poor concentration, obesity, inadequate bone strength, fatigue, sleepiness,
headaches, constipation, Vitamin D deficiency, periodontal disease, skin problems, cysts,
blood clots, physical stiffness and pain in their joints, among other things. However,
plaintiffs submitted no evidence from which a jury could conclude that these problems were
related to plaintiffs’ lack of exercise, limited sunlight or any other conditions of
administrative confinement. Plaintiffs submitted some medical records, including medical
test results and summaries of medical checkups, but they provided no testimony from a
medical professional qualified to interpret the records. Additionally, nothing in the medical
records connects plaintiffs’ alleged health problems to their conditions of confinement. For
example, no treating physician has filed a statement attributing plaintiffs’ physical health
issues to any particular conditions of confinement. Plaintiffs are not medical professionals,
so their own beliefs about the cause of their medical issues are not admissible. Fed. R. Evid.
702; Pearson, 237 F.3d at 886 (noting that inmate was not competent to testify about
relation between exercise and dental problems); Winger v. Pierce, 11-3480, 2013 WL
1395901, *4 (7th Cir. Apr. 8, 2013) (unpublished) (affirming summary judgment in favor
of defendants where inmate presented no medical evidence that his health problems were
linked to his denial of outside recreation); Gruenberg v. Schneiter, 474 F. App'x 459, 463
(7th Cir. 2012) (unpublished) (affirming grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants
where inmate presented no admissible evidence linking muscle pain and depression to
Plaintiffs also have not shown that they were deprived of adequate sanitation or
clothing. Plaintiffs were permitted two showers a week. The Court of Appeals for the
Seventh Circuit has stated that limiting inmates to weekly showers does not violate the
Eighth Amendment, Henderson v. Lane, 979 F.2d 466, 468–69 (7th Cir. 1992); Davenport
v. DeRobertis, 844 F.2d 1310, 1316 (7th Cir. 1988), and plaintiffs have not alleged that
they were prevented from washing at their sinks. Additionally, plaintiffs have not alleged
that their health was threatened because they received clean clothes only twice a week. No
reasonable jury could conclude that the frequency of the showers and clothing changes was
a deprivation serious enough to amount to a constitutional violation.
B. Mental Health
This leaves plaintiffs’ claims that their conditions of confinement collectively
exacerbated their mental health problems. In fact, plaintiffs devote most of their brief to this
claim, contending that the extreme isolation, lack of social interaction and sensory
deprivation, combined with the prolonged terms of their administrative confinement,
worsened their existing mental health disorders and caused them to feel more depressed,
hopeless and suicidal.
Prison officials have an obligation to provide for the psychiatric care of their inmates
pursuant to their constitutional obligation to address their serious medical needs. Rice, 675
F.3d at 676 (citing Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 734 (7th Cir. 2001)).
Additionally, this court has explained that a prisoner’s mental health or sanity is a basic
human need, the deprivation of which can constitute an Eighth Amendment violation. Jones
‘El, 164 F. Supp. 2d at 1117. Thus, prison officials may be found to have violated their
duties under the Eighth Amendment by failing to provide treatment for an inmate’s serious
mental health care need or by consciously disregarding conditions of confinement that “are
so severe and restrictive that they exacerbate the symptoms that mentally ill inmates
exhibit.” Id. at 1116. See also Farmer v. Kavanagh, 494 F. Supp. 2d 345, 366-67 (D. Md.
2007) (explaining that conditions of confinement that deprived prisoner of “mental health
or sanity” may be unconstitutional); Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F. Supp. 1146, 1264 (N.D. Cal.
1995) (stating that “if the particular conditions of segregation being challenged are such that
they inflict a serious mental illness, greatly exacerbate mental illness, or deprive inmates of
their sanity, then defendants [prison officials] have deprived inmates of a basic necessity of
human existence—indeed, they have crossed into the realm of psychological torture”).
Defendants have conceded for the purposes of summary judgment that all of the
plaintiffs have mental illnesses and had mental health needs during their time in
administrative confinement. Additionally, defendants admit that they were aware of the
conditions of confinement for inmates on administrative segregation at the Waupun
Correctional Institution. However, they contend that the evidence plaintiffs have adduced
is insufficient to establish that the conditions of confinement in administrative segregation
posed a “substantial risk of serious harm” to plaintiffs or deprived them of their mental
health or sanity. Additionally, defendants contend that even if plaintiffs could prove that
particular conditions or the totality of conditions were so deleterious as to pose a substantial
risk of serious harm, plaintiffs cannot prove that defendants were aware of the situation and
consciously disregarded it or that defendants had any other feasible options.
With respect to plaintiffs Salazar, Lopez and Riach, it is clear that they submitted
insufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that the conditions of
administrative confinement exacerbated their mental health problems or posed any risk of
serious harm to them that would not have existed outside administrative confinement. The
evidence in the record shows that plaintiffs Salazar, Lopez and Riach suffered from mental
health problems before they were placed on administrative confinement and that their
problems continued while they were in the segregation unit. Plaintiff Salazar had diagnoses
of obsessive compulsive disorder, adjustment disorder with depressed mood and antisocial
personality disorder, dkt. ##88-1, 99-4 at 2; Lopez had a diagnosis of major depressive
order, dkt. #87-2; and Riach had diagnoses of major depressive disorder, social phobia,
polysubstance dependence and antisocial personality disorder.
Dkt. #88-3. All three
plaintiffs stated in their declarations that their prolonged confinement in administrative
confinement caused or exacerbated their mental and emotional health problems. Salazar
Decl., dkt. #92, at ¶ 19; Lopez Decl., dkt. #87, at ¶ 8; Riach Decl., dkt. #93 at ¶ 19.
However, plaintiffs are not mental health experts and they are not qualified to offer opinions
about the causes of their mental or physical health problems. Even if they were qualified,
their declaration statements are too vague to support a finding that the conditions of
administrative confinement caused or exacerbated their mental health issues.
Plaintiffs offer nothing beyond Salazar’s own statement to support his claim that the
conditions of his confinement exacerbated his mental illnesses. With respect to Riach, the
only evidence in the record that the conditions of administrative confinement exacerbated
his problems is his August 3, 2011 information request stating that he felt “more depressed
that [he had] been in a long time.” Dkt. #99-4. This general statement from Riach about
his depression is not sufficient to show a connection between his conditions of confinement
and his mental illness. With respect to Lopez, plaintiffs submitted records from March 2012
and April 2013 appointments Lopez had with prison psychiatrists, in which one psychiatrist
noted that Lopez had “feelings of discouragement, some of which is situational,” dkt. #87-2
at 2, and the other psychiatrist noted that Lopez felt hopeless and thought that
“administrative confinement [was] getting to him.” Id. at 3. These statements are too vague
to support a conclusion that the conditions of administrative confinement were inflicting
serious suffering to Lopez, particularly because Lopez denied suicidal thoughts or any intent
or plan to act on suicidal thoughts during the visits. Id.
It is a closer question whether plaintiffs Vasquez and Greenwood have submitted
evidence sufficient to allow a jury to conclude that their mental illnesses were exacerbated
significantly by their conditions of confinement. Both Vasquez and Greenwood had suicidal
thoughts and engaged in suicidal behavior while housed in administrative confinement.
Further, notes written by these plaintiffs’ mental health providers suggested that Vasquez’s
and Greenwood’s depression and behavior were connected to their prolonged terms and
conditions of administrative confinement. E.g., dkt. #86-3 (Dr. Callister noting that “most
of [Greenwood’s] reported symptoms are related to a lengthy segregation stay”); dkt. #86-3
at 2 (Dr. Callister noting that Greenwood was “having difficulty adjusting to what has
become a lengthy [administrative confinement].
He has limited coping skills and
characterological traits are likely amplified in the isolated environment of seg.”); dkt. #76-2
at 6 (Dr. Callister noting that Vasquez’s depression appeared to be “largely situational”);
id. at 7 (Dr. Callister’s memorandum to defendant Braemer stating that Vasquez’s
depression was “largely situational” and that “his status in administrative confinement is
detrimental to him from an emotional standpoint”).
That being said, these broad statements from plaintiffs’ treating physicians go only
so far. Plaintiffs’ doctors did not provide any opinions about what particular conditions of
administrative confinement caused plaintiffs’ depression to worsen or whether there were
certain changes that could be made to the conditions that would have made a difference to
plaintiffs’ mental health.
The statements in plaintiffs’ medical records are vague and
conclusory and provide little information about whether it was the social isolation, the
limited sunlight, the restricted recreation or the combination of all of these conditions that
contributed to Vasquez’s and Greenwood’s depression. (Plaintiffs did submit an expert
report about the psychiatric effects of prison conditions prepared by Terry Kupers for use
in a different case not involving plaintiffs, dkt. #99-1, but Kupers has not been designated
as a expert in this case and his report is inadmissible.) This is important because in order
to prove that conditions of confinement in segregation were unconstitutional, plaintiffs must
be able to show that changes to those conditions would have made a difference to their
The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit explained this point in Rice, 675 F.3d
650 (7th Cir. 2012).
In that case, the estate of a pretrial detainee who died while
incarcerated brought several claims against jail officials and medical personnel, including a
claim that it was unconstitutional to confine the mentally ill detainee in administrative
segregation for a prolonged period where he was in extreme isolation and likely to
decompensate. Id. at 666. The court of appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of the
defendants on the claim because the estate did “not discuss in detail what alternative
placements were available to the jail nor, more importantly, . . . the differences those
placements would have made in terms of [the deceased detainee’s] social isolation.” Id. at
667. To succeed on the claim, the estate was required to “identify feasible alternatives and
to tender evidence supporting the contention that [the detainee] likely would have fared
better in one of those alternative placements.” Id. Because it had not done this, the court
found summary judgment in the defendants’ favor appropriate.
In this case, plaintiffs must adduce evidence that there were feasible alternatives to
their conditions and that they would have had fewer serious mental health issues under those
alternatives. Plaintiffs point out that inmates in general population have much greater access
to opportunities for social interaction and outside recreation.
This is true, but it is
undisputed that plaintiffs were housed in administrative confinement because they misused
their opportunities for social interaction and their behavior made assignment in general
population problematic. Vasquez physically assaulted staff and conspired to incite a riot;
Greenwood repeatedly assaulted other inmates; Salazar was a high-ranking gang member
who threatened staff and organized pyramid schemes; Lopez attacked another inmate with
a padlock in a sock, held a position of authority in a street gang and ordered a hit on another
inmate; and Riach repeatedly threatened to injure or kill staff members and used the mail
to harass people in the community.
Defendants did not violate plaintiffs’ Eighth
Amendment rights by deciding that general population was not a feasible alternative.
Plaintiffs suggest that they could have been housed in the behavioral health unit at
the prison. However, there is little evidence in the record about this unit and whether
placing plaintiffs in that unit would have been a feasible alternative in light of plaintiffs’
conduct history. Plaintiffs submitted a document with information about the behavioral
health unit, dkt. #99-2, but they provided no explanation of the document and more
important, no expert testimony about whether placing plaintiffs in that unit would have
reduced the likelihood of plaintiffs’ mental distress. In particular, plaintiffs needed to
produce evidence showing that particular conditions in administrative confinement (or
combination of conditions) exacerbated their mental illnesses, that those same conditions
are absent from the behavioral health unit (or another alternative unit of the prison), that
it would have been feasible to place plaintiffs in the behavioral health unit or other
alternative location and that plaintiffs would have been better off.
testimony on this issue, a factfinder could not conclude that such an alternative environment
would have made a difference to plaintiffs’ mental health. Rice, 675 F.3d at 667 (“More to
the point, the Estate does not explain why placement in the medical ward or any other unit
of the jail would have reduced the likelihood of decompensation due to isolation.”).
Finally, even if plaintiffs’ evidence were sufficient to establish that conditions in
administrative confinement exacerbated their mental illnesses and caused them unnecessary
suffering and that there were viable alternative housing options or changes that could have
been made to administrative confinement that would have prevented their mental and
emotional suffering, plaintiffs have not submitted evidence from which a reasonable jury
could conclude that defendants knew all of this. To succeed on an Eighth Amendment claim
of deliberate indifference, an inmate must show that the defendant was subjectively aware
of and consciously disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm to the inmate. Farmer, 511
U.S. at 837. Defendants knew plaintiffs had serious mental health needs. Also, despite
defendants’ arguments to the contrary, I can assume that defendants knew that prolonged
confinement in the segregation unit could cause inmates to experience depression and
emotional suffering and could aggravate existing mental illnesses. As the court of appeals has
noted, “[t]here is an extensive literature on the effect of such conditions, particularly of
isolation, on mentally disturbed prisoners,” Scarver v. Litscher, 434 F.3d 972, 975 (7th Cir.
2006), and defendants have received information on this issue in other lawsuits involving
the affects of segregation on mentally ill prisoners. E.g., Schumacher v. Frank, 08-cv-228-slc;
Matz v. Frank, 08-cv-491-slc; Matz v. Frank, 09-cv-653-slc.
However, defendants can be held liable only if they knew the conditions of
administrative confinement posed a substantial risk of causing these plaintiffs serious physical
or mental suffering. Farmer, 494 F. Supp. 2d at 368-70 (although prison officials knew
plaintiff had serious mental health condition that could be affected negatively by segregation,
plaintiff had not shown that defendants drew inference that transferring plaintiff to
segregation posed “substantial risk of serious harm”). There is no evidence that defendants
believed that the conditions of administrative confinement were inappropriate for all inmates
with serious mental illness or for plaintiffs in particular. Id. at 369-70 (“memo and general
knowledge of the mental health issues engendered by placement at [adjustment center] [do
not] establish deliberate indifference on the part of the confining defendants in this case”).
The possibility that defendants could or should have drawn this inference from previous
cases or from plaintiffs’ own behaviors is not sufficient to meet the standard of deliberate
In Scarver, 434 F.3d at 975-77, the court of appeals considered whether defendants
committed an Eighth Amendment violation by housing Scarver, a seriously mentally ill
prisoner, in a Supermax institution, the conditions of which caused Scarver severe mental
distress. The court explained that although defendant officials “[p]robably . . . should have
known” that transferring a mentally ill inmate to a Supermax facility would have put him
“at risk of severe distress,” “that would make them guilty merely of negligence and not of
deliberate indifference (the mental state required to establish an Eighth Amendment
violation), which would require proof that they were conscious of the risk.” Id. at 975
(citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837-38). The court of appeals concluded there was no evidence
of deliberate indifference because there was “no evidence . . . that defendants knew . . . that
[Scarver] would be at risk of severe distress” and “no indication that they attributed [his
subsequent distress] to the heat of the cell, the constant illumination of the cell, or the denial
of audiotapes or similar equipment—no evidence in short that they realized the harm that
the conditions of his confinement were inflicting on him.” Id. See also id. at 977 (Scarver
“failed to cite evidence to overcome the defendants’ denials that they knew these conditions
were making his mental illness worse.”).
Similarly, in this case, there is no evidence that defendants attributed plaintiffs’
mental health issues to the conditions of administrative confinement. There is no evidence
that plaintiffs Salazar, Riach, Lopez or Greenwood ever told defendants specifically that
their conditions of confinement were exacerbating their mental illness or causing them severe
mental distress. Further, although plaintiff Vasquez did write to defendants about the effect
of his conditions of confinement on his mental illness, there is no evidence that defendants
believed Vasquez was at serious risk of harm. Rather, the evidence suggests that defendants
believed Vasquez did not want to be in segregation, but that he needed to be there for the
security of the prison. Defendants knew Vasquez was not a mental health professional, and
they were not required to believe his statements about the cause of his depression and
suicidal thoughts. As the court of appeals has explained, prison officials are not required to
believe everything inmates tell them, Knight v. Wiseman, 590 F.3d 458, 466 (7th Cir.
2009); Lindell v. Houser, 442 F.3d 1033, 1035 (7th Cir. 2006), even when the topic is
mental health or suicide. Domino v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 239 F.3d 752,
756 (5th Cir. 2001). Vasquez was ultimately released from administrative confinement after
his psychiatrist, Dr. Callister, recommended that he be moved to a less restrictive
Finally, plaintiffs have adduced no evidence suggesting that defendants were
indifferent to the distress plaintiffs experienced. Defendants have averred that they believed
plaintiffs’ needs were being adequately addressed by the psychiatric and psychological
services units and it is undisputed that all plaintiffs received medication and other treatment
for their mental health needs and that some even participated in group therapy. When
plaintiffs Vasquez and Greenwood engaged in suicidal behavior, they were placed on
observation. Plaintiffs have not adduced evidence showing that they could not obtain
psychiatric or psychological care or that defendants interfered with their access to mental
health care or the treatment prescribed by professionals. As non-medical professionals,
defendants were permitted to defer to the judgment of medical professionals regarding
treatment of plaintiffs’ mental illnesses. Rice, 675 F.3d at 676; Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d
742, 755 (7th Cir. 2011); Johnson v. Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001, 1011 (7th Cir. 2006).
Certainly, defendants could not ignore obvious incompetency on the part of treating
psychiatrists or psychologists and could not ignore an inmate in obvious distress, but
plaintiffs have adduced no evidence suggesting that there was any reason for defendants to
believe that plaintiffs were receiving inadequate mental health care.
Plaintiffs contend that whether they received treatment for their mental health issues
is a separate question from their claim that the conditions of confinement exacerbated their
mental health problems. However, the court of appeals’ decision in Scarver, 434 F.3d at
975, suggests that an inmate’s access to psychiatric treatment is highly relevant. In that case,
the defendants were aware that Scarver was in serious distress because of his mental illness.
Id. However, the court concluded that the defendants had not committed a constitutional
violation because, in part, “[t]hey were not indifferent to his welfare. They gave him
constant psychiatric attention, plied him with antipsychotic medication, and through close
surveillance thwarted his two suicide attempts. They did not know what more to do.” Id.
See also Farmer, 494 F. Supp. 2d at 369-70 (“As [plaintiff’s] mental health problems
manifested themselves during her incarceration at [the adjustment center], the problems
were responded to, in the form of meetings with psychologists, medication, and placement
in a mental hospital at one point, suggesting that [the adjustment center] officials did not
disregard whatever risk the conditions of confinement posed to her mental health or
sanity.”). In this case, although defendants did not change the conditions of administrative
confinement, they provided mental health treatment to plaintiffs in an effort to help them
cope with the conditions. Changing the conditions might have helped plaintiffs’ mental and
emotional state more than the psychiatric medications did, but federal courts can not assume
they know better than prison staff how to manage mentally ill inmates and cannot impose
managerial requirements on prisons unless there has been a constitutional violation. Because
plaintiffs have not shown that defendants violated their constitutional rights, plaintiffs are
not entitled to relief.
IT IS ORDERED that
1. The motions filed by plaintiffs Luis Vasquez, David Greenwood, Javier Salazar,
Julian Lopez and Anthony Riach to “stay briefing on motion for summary judgment and
motion to compel,” dkt. #67, and “for assistance in recruiting counsel and motion to
appoint expert,” dkt. #68, are DENIED.
2. Plaintiffs’ motions for leave to file a sur-reply, dkt. ##89, 98, are GRANTED.
3. The motion for summary judgment, dkt. #56, filed by defendants Daniel Braemer,
William Pollard, Donald Strahota, Michael Thurmer and Pamela Zank is GRANTED.
4. The clerk of court is directed to enter judgment for defendants and close this case.
Entered this 13th day of August, 2013.
BY THE COURT:
BARBARA B. CRABB
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