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Brown v. Vdoc

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

February 3, 2015

JAMES TERRY BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
VDOC, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MICHAEL F. URBANSKI, District Judge.

James Terry Brown, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious risk of harm. The defendants moved for summary judgment and Brown responded thereto, making this matter ripe for disposition. Having reviewed the record, the court finds that the defendants are entitled to summary judgment and, therefore, will grant their motion.

I.

On September 18, 2013, while Brown was housed at Keen Mountain Correctional Center ("KMCC") in the segregation unit, defendants Internal Affairs Special Agent Quillen and KMCC Investigator Sgt. Arms interviewed Brown and inmate Boone, separately and privately, about an envelope that Arms received which contained two letters discussing plans for Boone to assist Brown with escaping from KMCC and assaulting KMCC Warden Fleming. The letters also contained information about Brown paying $5, 000.00 to Boone's mother for Boone's assistance. Brown alleges that Quillen and Arms "relayed" the information they learned in Brown's interview to Boone and consequently, Brown was "labeled a snitch" and Boone put a "hit out on" Brown's life.

On October 3, 2013, Brown was transferred from KMCC to Wallens Ridge State Prison ("WRSP"). On October 31, 2013, Brown submitted an informal complaint at WRSP stating that his life was in danger because of an alleged "hit" on his life, and defendant Lt. McBride responded by telling Brown that if there were any inmates that Brown would like to place on his "enemy/keep separated list, " he could request "enemy summary forms" and submit them to his counselor for review. Unsatisfied with this response, Brown filed a regular grievance on November 4, 2013, and defendant Warden Holloway upheld McBride's response and deemed Brown's grievance unfounded. Boone was added to Brown's enemy/keep separated list along with one other inmate.

On November 26, 2013, Brown appealed to defendant Regional Administrator Hinkle, stating that his "life [was] in danger and [he was] being verbally abused day and night [by] gang members due to information he gave to [the] Special Investigator Unit" about Boone and Warden Fleming. Hinkle upheld Holloway's decision that the grievance was unfounded.

Brown argues that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious risk of harm when defendants Arms and Quillen "relayed" Brown's information to Boone, and when defendants McBride, Holloway, Collins, and Hinkle denied Brown's grievances and appeals concerning the matter.[1]

Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, supported by affidavits. Defendants state that during the interviews, both Brown and Boone admitted to writing the letters. Defendants also state that the information learned during each interview was not shared with the other inmate.

Defendants state that while Brown was at KMCC, he was housed in segregation nearly the entire time.[2] Inmates housed in segregation at KMCC remain in their cells most of the day and do not have direct contact with other inmates. An inmate's out of cell activities are limited to showers, recreation, and going to the medical department, and two correctional officers escort inmates to and from all out of cell activities. When inmates are showering, they are not allowed to come into contact with each other. They are placed inside an individual shower where they remain locked in until they are escorted back to their cells. When inmates participate in their minimum of one hour of out-of-cell exercise five days per week, they are placed in individual recreation cages and do not have direct physical contact with other inmates. An inmate is monitored by staff at all times during recreation.

Defendants also state that when an inmate alerts KMCC staff that he is in fear of his life because of another inmate, both inmates are immediately separated and placed into segregation while an investigation is launched into the allegations. After the investigation is completed, if the allegations prove to be true, an enemy/keep separated form is completed regarding the other inmate. Additionally, if the allegations are true, it is likely that the inmates will be housed at separate institutions. In Brown's case, he was already in segregation, and was already separated from other inmates. Arms states that while Brown was housed at KMCC, Brown never expressed that he was in fear of his life or that he felt he was in any imminent danger of being harmed by another inmate.[3]

In addition, defendants state that at all times while Brown was at WRSP, he was housed in segregation where, like at KMCC, he had no direct contact with other inmates and where he was escorted by correctional officers any time he left his cell. On August 15, 2014, Brown was transferred from WRSP to Red Onion State Prison, where he is currently housed.

In response to defendants' motion for summary judgment, Brown concedes that he is "not in direct, physical contact with any other inmates who would be in a position to cause bodily harm, " but alleges that he is "being verbally abused and threatened." Brown argues that he will face a "serious" risk of harm if he ever has to go into general population housing.

In addition, Brown's response to the defendants' motion elaborates on his allegation that Arms and Quillen "relayed" Brown's information to Boone. Brown states that he and Boone were "pulled out separately" into a room in the segregation building, everybody saw them being escorted out, and it does not "take a rocket scientist to figure out who [they] went to see when all could see who called [them] out." Brown explains that Boone would have to know that Brown gave Arms and Quillen information if Boone did not provide Arms and Quillen with the information.

Finally, Brown also alleges that he has suffered an emotional injury because he starts to breathe hard and his heart "jump[s] fast" if a correctional ...


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