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Canada v. Mathena

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

July 18, 2014

RANDELL MATHENA, [1] et al., Defendants.



Plaintiff, Kelvin A. Canada, an inmate incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison, ("ROSP") in Pound, Virginia, filed this action pro se for monetary damages, as well as injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the warden at ROSP, Randall Mathena, and Virginia Department of Corrections, ("VDOC"), Officers Lt. Anthony Mullins, Lt. Still, Sgt. J. Kiser and Lt. Steve Franklin. Canada asserts claims based on violations of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.[2] Jurisdiction over this matter is based upon 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The matter is before the undersigned on the Motion For Summary Judgment filed by the defendants, (Docket Item No. 27) ("Motion"). This case is before the undersigned magistrate judge on referral, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). The plaintiff has responded to the Motion, and none of the parties have requested a hearing on the Motion. Based upon the pleadings, the briefs and the accompanying affidavits and exhibits, and for the reasons stated herein, I recommend that the Motion be granted.

I. Facts

In his sworn Complaint, (Docket Item No. 4) ("Complaint"), Canada alleges that, on March 30, 2013, he was placed on strip cell status by defendants Sgt. J. Kiser, Lt. A. Mullins and Lt. Still for covering his cell door window. (Complaint at 5.) He remained on strip cell status from March 30, 2013, through April 1, 2013. (Complaint at 5.) Canada alleges that, during this time, he was denied a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, a mattress, sheets, a blanket, a t-shirt, socks, shoes and pants, resulting in an inability to brush his teeth, wash his face or body, shower, wash his hands before eating meals, wipe himself after using the toilet facilities, receive any clean laundry, receive his mattress or receive any clothing to keep himself warm from the cold cell for two days. (Complaint at 5-6, 13-14.) Canada alleges that the cell, No. C-318, was "freezing cold, " and all he had to wear was a pair of boxer shorts. (Complaint at 13, 14.) He further alleges that he could not sleep due to the cell's extreme cold temperatures. (Complaint at 14.) Canada states that, although Lt. Franklin was not present on March 30, 2013, he worked as the Building Lieutenant the following day and became aware of his status, but failed to intervene, despite knowledge that Canada had not been disruptive since being placed on strip cell. (Complaint at 13.)

All of the defendants have provided affidavits in support of the Motion. According to Sgt. J. Kiser, on March 30, 2013, at approximately 1:00 p.m., he was called to C-3 pod, where Canada had covered his cell door window. (Docket Item No. 28-3, ("Kiser Aff."), at 1); (Docket Item No 28-5, ("D.A. Still Aff."), at 1.) Only after being given several orders to uncover the window, did Canada comply. (Kiser Aff. at 1.) Lt. D.A. Still approved the placement of an institutional disciplinary charge of "Tampering With Security Equipment or Devices" by Sgt. Kiser against Canada. (Kiser Aff. at 1; D.A. Still Aff. at 1.) Sgt. Kiser obtained permission from Unit Manager Swiney to place Canada on strip cell status. (Kiser Aff. at 1.) Lt. D.A. Still, the Officer-in-Charge of Canada's housing unit on that day, recommended the removal of Canada's property, which Unit Manager Swiney approved. (D.A. Still Aff. at 1.)

According to Lt. Still, pursuant to established operating procedures, offenders are assigned to strip cell status when their actions pose a physical threat to themselves or others. (D.A. Still Aff. at 2.) A cell may be partially or totally stripped of personal items the offender could use to harm himself or others or which may create a health hazard. (D.A. Still Aff. at 2.) The offender's property is searched for contraband and to determine if he has fashioned some type of weapon. (D.A. Still Aff. at 2.) According to Lt. Still, this practice is especially important when an offender has concealed his actions from security staff by covering his cell window. (D.A. Still Aff. at 2.) Lt. Still stated that temperatures in the housing units routinely are monitored, and a review of the logbook for Canada's housing unit reflects an entry on March 30, 2013, at 5:55 p.m., reflecting a temperature of 71 degrees and an entry on March 31, 2013, at 6:00 a.m., reflecting a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. (D.A. Still Aff. at 2.) An entry on March 31, 2013, at 5:50 p.m. reflects a temperature of 71 degrees Fahrenheit. (D.A. Still Aff. at 2.)

According to Sgt. Kiser, he gave Canada several orders to back up to the cell door to be restrained so officers could enter the cell and retrieve his property, but Canada refused to comply. (Kiser Aff. at 1-2.) Only after Lt. Still came into the C-3 pod and gave Canada a direct order to allow officers to restrain him, did he comply. (Kiser Aff. at 2.) Canada's property was removed from his cell and searched for contraband in front of his cell, but no contraband was found. (Kiser Aff. at 2.) Sgt. Kiser claims that he attempted to return the property to Canada at approximately 3:00 p.m. on March 30, 2013, but he refused to accept it. (Kiser Aff. at 2.) Several more attempts to return Canada's property were made, but he continued to refuse, stating that he "ain't taking shit back from this break." (Kiser Aff. at 2.) The following day, Sunday, March 31, 2013, Sgt. Kiser offered the return of Canada's property on several more occasions, but he continued to refuse, stating that he would not take anything from B-Break. (Kiser Aff. at 2.) Sgt. Kiser stated that Canada accepted his property from officers on the A-Break shift on April 1, 2013. (Kiser Aff. at 2.) Sgt. Kiser has provided the court with two Internal Incident Reports reflecting the same. (Docket Item No. 28-3 at 4-6.) Canada agrees that he accepted his property on April 1, 2013, but he denies that he was ever offered his property by anyone before that time.

According to L.A. Mullins, the Inmate Hearings Officer at ROSP, pursuant to VDOC Operating Procedure, ("OP"), 861.1, Offender Discipline, the Disciplinary Offense Report is to be served on an offender as soon as possible after removal from strip cell status, but no later than midnight of the following working day. (Docket Item No. 28-2, ("L.A. Mullins Aff."), at 1-2.) L.A. Mullins stated that he dismissed the institutional charge against Canada on April 9, 2013, because the notice of hearing had not been timely served in accordance with OP 861.1. (L.A. Mullins Aff. at 2.)

Lt. A. Mullins, the Officer-in-Charge of A & B Buildings, B-Break Dayshift, on March 30, 2013, stated that he learned that Sgt. Kiser had placed two offenders on strip cell that day, so he walked over to C Building in case his assistance was needed. (Docket Item No. 28-4, ("A. Mullins Aff."), at 1-2.) Lt. A. Mullins stated that he was present when Canada was removed from his cell to retrieve his property, but he was not personally involved in the decision to place him on strip cell status. (A. Mullins Aff. at 2.)

ROSP is an administrative segregation facility housing inmates who are classified as the highest security risks and are some of the most violent offenders in the VDOC. (Docket Item No. 28-1, ("Mathena Aff."), at 2.) Many ROSP inmates require segregation because they are disruptive, assaultive, have severe behavioral problems, demonstrate predatory behavior and are escape risks. (Mathena Aff. at 2.) According to Mathena, Canada is an extremely assaultive inmate, and correctional officers must exercise extreme caution in their interactions with him. (Mathena Aff. at 2.) Employees may use all necessary and suitable means to maintain control, prevent escapes, minimize the risk of staff and inmate injury and ensure the safe and orderly operation of the prison, including the use of strip cells. (Mathena Aff. at 2.) Mathena stated that the use of strip cells is a necessary and effective security measure. (Mathena Aff. at 3.) An offender's property may be restricted or removed when deemed necessary to ensure his safety and/or the security of the institution. (Mathena Aff. at 3.) Strip cells are never to be used for vindictive or retaliatory purposes, and they are never used as punishment. (Mathena Aff. at 2.) According to Mathena, security staff at ROSP do not abuse the use of strip cells. (Mathena Aff. at 3.) Whenever it is necessary to assign an offender strip cell status or modified strip cell status, the assignment is well documented and the situation is monitored appropriately. (Mathena Aff. at 3.) Mathena stated that offenders remain on strip cell only until their behavior is brought under control and no longer poses a threat to security and orderly operations. (Mathena Aff. at 3.)

Mathena stated that he had no personal involvement in Canada's assignment to strip cell status on March 30, 2013. (Mathena Aff. at 2.) However, on May 16, 2013, Mathena provided a Level I response to a Grievance submitted by Canada regarding this strip cell assignment, stating that he learned security staff had instructed Canada to uncover his cell door window several times, but he refused, resulting in his property being removed from his cell and searched for contraband. (Mathena Aff. at 2.) Once Canada's disruptive behavior ceased and his property was searched, Canada was permitted his property items. (Mathena Aff. at 2-3.) He stated that prison records showed that Canada could have received his property back the same day it was taken, but he refused it until April 1, 2013. (Mathena Aff. at 3.) According to Mathena, if an offender refuses to accept property items, security staff will not force it into his cell. (Mathena Aff. at 3.) Based on these facts, Mathena found no violation of policy, and he determined that Canada's Grievance was unfounded. (Mathena Aff. at 3.)

II. Analysis

Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 56(a), the court should grant summary judgment only when the pleadings, responses to discovery and the record reveal that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). See, e.g., Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Ross v. Commc'ns Satellite Corp., 759 F.2d 355, 364 (4th Cir. 1985). A genuine dispute of fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the facts and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Inc., 475 U.S. at 587-88; Nguyen v. CNA Corp., 44 F.3d 234, 237 (4th Cir. 1995); Miltier v. Beorn, 896 F.2d 848, 850 (4th Cir. 1990); Ross, 759 F.2d at 364; Cole v. Cole, 633 F.2d 1083, 1092 (4th Cir. 1980). In other words, the nonmoving party is entitled "to have the credibility of his evidence as forecast ...

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