United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge.
Steven Joyce, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this
civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging unconstitutional prison living conditions and
improper mental health accommodations. The court required
Joyce to comply with filing prerequisites, which he has done.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). Joyce has also filed motions to
amend his complaint. Upon review of the record, the court
concludes that Joyce's complaint must be summarily
dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim, and
his pending motions must be denied as futile.
construed, Joyce's complaint alleges: (1) over the last
two years, numerous officers have failed to provide Joyce
with scheduled showers and/or outside recreation periods, and
supervisory officers have ordered or allowed such
deprivations; (2) Qualified Mental Health Professional
("QMHP") Huff placed Joyce in long-term
segregation, which is unlawful; and (3) after Joyce asked to
be committed for mental health treatment or to be placed in a
residential treatment unit ("RTU"), Huff retaliated
against him by placing him in long-term segregation. After
review of the record, the court concludes that Joyce's
allegations do not state any claim actionable under §
1983 permits an aggrieved party to file a civil action
against a person for actions taken under color of state law
that violated his constitutional rights. See Cooper v.
Sheehan, 735 F.3d 153, 158 (4th Cir. 2013). The court
must dismiss a prisoner's § 1983 action about prison
conditions "if the court is satisfied that the action is
frivolous, malicious, [or] fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted." 42 U.S.C. § l997e(c)(1). To
state an actionable claim, plaintiffs "[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).
Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from cruel and unusual
living conditions. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337,
347 (1981). "[T]he Constitution does not mandate
comfortable prisons, " however, and conditions that are
"restrictive and even harsh ... are part of the penalty
that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against
society." Id. at 347-49. It is well established
that "only the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain
implicates the Eighth Amendment." Wilson v.
Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297 (1991). To sustain an
unconstitutional conditions claim, a prisoner must show that:
(1) objectively, the deprivation was sufficiently serious, in
that the challenged, official acts caused denial of "the
minimal civilized measure of life's necessities";
and (2) subjectively, the defendant prison officials acted
with "deliberate indifference to inmate health or
safety." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834
(1994). The prisoner must show "significant physical or
emotional harm, or a grave risk of such harm, "
resulting from the challenged conditions. Shakka v.
Smith, 71 F.3d 162, 166 (4th Cir. 1995).
complaint does not allege that without showers or outside
recreation at every scheduled opportunity, he was unable to
wash himself or exercise his body in his cell. He also does
not allege that he has suffered any physical or emotional
harm from missing a shower or an outdoor recreation session
on occasion over the last two years. Nor does he state facts
suggesting a substantial risk that he will suffer serious
harm in the future from such occurrences. Therefore, the
court concludes that claim (1) of Joyce's complaint fails
to state any constitutional deprivation actionable under
§ 1983 and must be summarily dismissed.
court also concludes that Joyce's second claim alleges
that, given his mental health problems, QMHP Huffs placement
of Joyce in long-term segregation was an Eighth Amendment
violation. This claim must be summarily dismissed. A prison
official's deliberate indifference to an inmate's
serious medical need violates the Eighth Amendment. See
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976). Similarly,
is entitled to psychological or psychiatric treatment if a
physician or other health care provider, exercising ordinary
skill and care at the time of observation, concludes with
reasonable medical certainty (1) that the prisoner's
symptoms evidence a serious disease or injury; (2) that such
disease or injury is curable or may be substantially
alleviated; and (3) that the potential for harm to the
prisoner by reason of delay or the denial of care would be
substantial. The right to treatment is, of course, limited to
that which may be provided upon a reasonable cost and time
basis and the essential test is one of medical necessity and
not simply that which may be considered merely desirable.
Bowring v. Godwin, 551 F.2d 44, 47-48 (4th Cir.
1977). In addressing a claim of inadequate mental health
care, the court cannot "second-guess the propriety or
adequacy of a particular course of treatment. Along with all
other aspects of health care, this remains a question of
sound professional judgment. The courts will not intervene
upon allegations of mere negligence, mistake or difference of
opinion." Id. at 48.
most, Joyce's allegations against Defendant Huff in claim
(2) indicate Joyce's disagreement with the QMHP's
professional judgment as to the appropriate housing
assignment for Joyce with his mental health issues. Joyce has
stated his preference to be committed for mental health
treatment or to be placed in a residential treatment unit.
His own submissions, however, indicate that Huff does not
find that Joyce's current circumstances and mental health
conditions warrant the housing assignment that Joyce prefers.
Such disagreements with professional judgments are simply not
actionable under § 1983. Therefore, the court will
summarily dismiss Joyce's claim (2).
final claim in the complaint alleges that Huff made his
medical judgments based on a retaliatory motive. Prison
officials may not retaliate against an inmate for exercising
his constitutional rights. See, e.g, Hudspeth v.
Figgins, 584 F.2d 1345, 1347 (4th Cir. 1978). On the
other hand, claims of retaliation against prison inmates must
be treated with healthy skepticism, because many actions by
prison officials are "by definition
'retaliatory' in the sense that [they are in]
respon[se] to prisoner misconduct" or other concerning
behaviors. Cochran v. Morris, 73 F.3d 1310, 1317
(4th Cir. 1996); Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 74 (4th
state a valid claim for retaliation under section 1983, a
prisoner must allege [facts showing] (1) a specific
constitutional right, (2) the defendant's intent to
retaliate against the prisoner for his or her exercise of
that right, (3) a retaliatory adverse act, and (4)
causation." Snodgrass v. Messer, No.
7;16CVOOO5O, 2017 WL 975992, at *4 (W.D. Va. Mar. 10, 2017),
affd, No. 17-6360, 2017 WL 3263650 (4th Cir. Aug. 1, 2017)
(quoting Jones v. Greninger,188 F.3d 322, 324-25
(5th Cir. 1999)). He must present more than conclusory
allegations of retaliation. Adams, 40 F.3d at 74.
Rather, he must allege facts showing that his exercise of his
constitutional right was a substantial factor motivating the
retaliatory action. See, e.g., Wagner v.
Wheeler,13 F.3d 86, 90-91 (4th Cir. 1993) (citing