United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
CHARLES E. FORD III, Plaintiff,
SUPERINTENDENT MRRJ, ET AL., Defendants.
E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge.
Charles E. Ford III, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro
se, has filed this civil rights action, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, with jurisdiction vested under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1343. In his complaint, Ford alleges that he has been
denied due process on a prison disciplinary charge and has
been improperly assigned to segregated confinement, where he
has been unfairly treated. Upon review of Ford's
complaint and attached documents, the court concludes that
the complaint fails to state any claim upon which relief can
incarcerated at the Middle River Regional Jail
(“MRRJ”). On June 26, 2017, an officer reported
that during a strip search, he found a weapon in Ford's
shoe and brought a disciplinary charge against the inmate.
Ford received notice of the charge the next day and
participated in a disciplinary hearing on July 7, 2017. Ford
contended that another inmate had had opportunity and motive
to plant the weapon in his shoe. Based on the reporting
officer's version of events, however, the hearing officer
found Ford guilty of the charge and penalized him with thirty
days of segregated confinement. The charge was upheld on
appeal. See gen. Compl. 2, ECF No. 1; Id.
Attach. 1, 10, and 11, ECF No. 1-1.
Ford served his term of disciplinary segregation, he was
placed on administrative maximum segregation. In “max
seg, ” he remains in his cell 23 hours per day, and his
radio was confiscated. He has no access to television or a
microwave, although he believes policy allows these
privileges to segregation inmates. Ford also claims that
other inmates in the same “pod” are allowed to
have their radios, and the poor ventilation in the area could
allow the spread of other inmates' contagious medical
conditions, such as scabies. In response to Ford's
grievances on these matters, officials have informed him that
he is receiving the privileges approved for max seg inmates
and the area is adequately cleaned to prevent the spread of
September 2017, Ford filed this civil action under §
1983 against “Superintendent MRRJ and staff and
administration.” Compl. 1, ECF No. 1. He seeks monetary
damages and expungement of the disciplinary charge.
court is required to dismiss any action or claim filed by a
prisoner against a governmental entity if it determines the
action or claim is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(b)(1). To state a claim, the plaintiff's
“[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level, ” to one that is
“plausible on its face, ” rather than merely
“conceivable.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). To state a cause of
action under § 1983, a plaintiff must establish that he
has been deprived of rights guaranteed by the Constitution or
laws of the United States and that this deprivation resulted
from conduct committed by a person acting under color of
state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988).
initial matter, Ford cannot pursue a § 1983 claim
against the MRRJ staff or administration as a group, because
such a group does not qualify as a “person”
subject to suit under § 1983. See Will v. Michigan
Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).
Therefore, Ford's claims against the staff and
administration must be summarily dismissed under §
although the MRRJ superintendent is a person for purposes of
a § 1983 claim, Ford does not allege that this
individual took any personal action that violated his
constitutional rights. Apparently, he seeks to impose
liability on this defendant merely based on his supervisory
role at the jail. Such a claim is not actionable under §
1983, however. “[L]iability will only lie where it is
affirmatively shown that the official charged acted
personally in the deprivation of the plaintiffs' rights
[because t]he doctrine of respondeat superior has no
application” under § 1983. Vinnedge v.
Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977) (internal
citations omitted). As such, the court must summarily dismiss
Ford's claims against the superintendent. Furthermore,
the court finds no basis to allow Ford to amend his
allegations against the superintendent or any other jail
official, because his allegations do not reflect any
violations of constitutionally protected rights.
court construes Ford's challenge to his disciplinary
proceedings as a claim that he was deprived of a liberty
interest without due process. An inmate's liberty
interest invokes constitutional protection, however, only
when the possible penalties would “impose[ ] atypical
and significant hardship on [him] in relation to the ordinary
incidents of prison life.” Sandin v. Conner,
515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995). Changes “in a prisoner's
location, variations of daily routine, changes in conditions
of confinement (including administrative segregation), and
the denial of privileges [are] matters which every prisoner
can anticipate [and which] are contemplated by his original
sentence to prison.” Gaston v. Taylor, 946
F.2d 340, 343 (4th Cir. 1991).
Ford's penalty of thirty days in segregation, with the
consequent loss of privileges, cannot qualify as atypical so
as to give rise to such a constitutionally protected liberty
interest. As such, he had no constitutional right to
particular procedural protections before imposition of the
segregation penalty. In any event, his submissions indicate
that he received advance written notice of the charge and had
a hearing during which he could present his evidence; he
simply disagrees with the outcome of that hearing. Such
circumstances alone do not give rise to a constitutional
claim. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 557
(1974) (regarding federal procedural protections);
Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S.
445, 454 (1985) (holding that prison disciplinary proceedings
comport with due process if “the findings of the prison
disciplinary board are supported by some evidence in the
addition, Ford has stated no basis for a claim of
unconstitutional living conditions. Certainly, he has no
constitutional right to possess a radio in jail, or to have
access to particular appliances. The Eighth Amendment
prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment
“protects inmates from inhumane treatment and
conditions while imprisoned.” Williams v.
Benjamin, 77 F.3d 756, 761 (4th Cir. 1996). Otherwise,
“[t]o the extent that [prison living] conditions are
restrictive and even harsh, they are part of the penalty that
criminal offenders pay for their offenses against
society.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347
(1981). To prove a constitutional claim related to an unsafe
jail condition, Ford must show that the defendant prison
official acted with deliberate indifference: that he knew,
subjectively, that the condition presented a substantial risk
of serious harm and nevertheless failed to take
“reasonable measures” to alleviate it. Farmer
v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 847 (1994). Ford must
also demonstrate that the challenged conditions caused, or is
likely to cause, him serious injury. Strickler v.
Waters, 989 F.2d 1375, 1380-1381 (4th Cir. 1993). Ford
has made no such showing regarding the challeged conditions
at MRRJ. Ford's complaints that prison officials violated
their own policies do not present constitutional claims
actionable under § 1983. Riccio v. County of
Fairfax, Va., 907 F.2d 1459, 1469 (4th Cir. 1990).
Ford's claim of being treated differently than other
inmates in the same pod fails to implicate equal protection
principles. The Equal Protection Clause “does not take
from the States all power of classification, but keeps
governmental decision makers from treating differently
persons who are in all relevant respects alike.”
Veney v. Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002)
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Ford states
no facts showing that he was similarly ...