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Means v. Hayles

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

December 15, 2014



JAMES D. TODD, District Judge.

On August 4, 2014, Plaintiff Courtney Means, Tennessee Department of Correction ("TDOC") prisoner number 375663, who is currently an inmate at the Turney Center Industrial Complex in Only, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 addressing his previous confinement at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary ("WTSP") in Henning, Tennessee, accompanied by a motion seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) In an order issued on August 5, 2014, the Court granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 4.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Security Threat Group ("STG") Coordinator Matthew Hayles, Unit Manager William Bryant, Officer First Name Unknown ("FNU") Jackson, TDOC Director of Classification Brandon Maloney, former WTSP Warden Jerry Lester, former Acting WTSP Warden Dwight Barbee, Captain FNU Sweat, Captain FNU Munford, Assistant Warden FNU Dickerson, and TDOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield, who was erroneously sued as "Derrick Scholfield."[1] Each of the individual Defendants is sued in his or her individual and official capacities. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 5.)

The complaint alleges that, on February 12, 2013, Plaintiff was sent to the STG Program at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex ("BCCX") in Pikeville, Tennessee, because of the murder of his cousin at the Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiponville, Tennessee. ( Id. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff renounced all gang memberships and participated fully in the STG Program. ( Id. ¶ 2.) In July 2013, TDOC revised its STG policy (TDOC Policy #506.26) into the Security Management Unit ("SMU") policy. The STG program at BCCX was terminated and all inmates housed there were shipped to the WTSP. ( Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff alleges that he "disagreed with my placement into the SMU Program, because not all inmates in the Bledsoe Program were shipped to the new Program." ( Id. ¶ 4.) He also claims that, "[a]lthough I had renounced any and all affiliation with gangs, the transfer to West Tennessee State Prison put me in danger from existing gangs." ( Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff "exhausted all prison remedies to obtain transfer to a safe environment, but was refused and/or ignored." ( Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff continued in the SMU Program and graduated on January 7, 2014. ( Id. ¶ 9.)

In anticipation of his completion of the SMU Program, Plaintiff contacted Defendants Maloney, Lester, Hayles, and Bryant in order to obtain a transfer away from the WTSP. ( Id. ¶¶ 10 & 12, at PageID 5-6.) Plaintiff "asked to be sent to a prison where I could do my time peacefully and be safe from all violence." ( Id. ¶ 11, at PageID 6.) Plaintiff also presented these issues to the SMU Review Board and the Unit Team. ( Id. ¶ 13.)

TDOC policy provides that inmates who successfully complete the SMU Program will be scheduled for a reclassification hearing. ( Id. ¶ 14.) The SMU Review Board is responsible for providing security recommendations to the Classification Panel for consideration. ( Id. ¶ 15.) Upon completion of the SMU Program, Plaintiff made Defendants aware of the danger he was in. ( Id. ¶ 16.) Defendants refused to reclassify Plaintiff and totally ignored his concerns. ( Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) Plaintiff's concerns for his safety were not documented, as required by TDOC policy. ( Id. ¶ 21.)

Instead of transferring Plaintiff to another prison, he was "sent to the compound of West Tennessee State Prison and placed in Unit 12." ( Id. ¶ 22.) Defendant Bryant, who had been the Unit Manager of the SMU Program, was reassigned as Unit Manager of Units 11 and 12. ( Id. ¶ 23.) Defendant Bryant was aware of Plaintiff's concerns for his personal safety but did nothing to protect him. ( Id. ¶ 24, at PageID 7.) During the next two weeks, Plaintiff frequently visited the WTSP Classification Coordinator, Ms. Humphries, who is not a party to this action, "trying to get shipped from the danger." ( Id. ¶ 25.) No action was taken. ( Id. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff also discussed his concerns with Defendants Lester, Dickerson, Sweat, and Mumford during morning inspections. ( Id. ¶ 27.) According to Plaintiff, "[t]he tension increased daily, and I knew I was in real danger." ( Id. ¶ 28.) Plaintiff was transferred to Unit 11, which is next door to Unit 12, but he contends that "[t]his... was no real transfer at all, I was still in danger." ( Id. ¶ 30.)

On March 20, 2014, at approximately 2:30 p.m., Plaintiff was returning to Unit 11. ( Id. ¶ 31.) The doors to Units 11A and 11B should have been secured at that time. ( Id. ¶ 32.) Once Plaintiff stepped into the core area, Defendant Jackson "opened the doors to 11B and allowed five inmates out of door without a pass." ( Id. ¶ 33.) "These men by post orders and Policy #506.17 should not have been out of the Unit." ( Id. ¶ 34.) Plaintiff was immediately attacked and stabbed six times. ( Id. ¶ 35.) Although Defendant Jackson should have seen the attack, "no Code was called." ( Id. ¶ 36.) Counselor Carswell and CCO Agnew, who are not parties to this action, saw the incident and called for assistance once it was over. ( Id. ¶ 37.) "However, no Code was called." ( Id. ¶ 38.)[2] Plaintiff was taken to Lauderdale Community Hospital and, upon his discharge, was placed in the prison infirmary. ( Id. ¶¶ 39-40.)

Plaintiff was served with a disciplinary write-up for STG activity because he had been attacked by gang members. ( Id. ¶ 41, at PageID 8.) Although Plaintiff had previously renounced his gang memberships, he was convicted and sent to the "hole" only because his attackers were gang members. ( Id. ¶ 42.) TDOC records still list Plaintiff as STG even though he had renounced his gang memberships and completed the SMU Program. ( Id. ¶ 43.) TDOC refuses to remove the STG designation from Plaintiff's file. ( Id. ¶ 44.) Plaintiff contends that this refusal "violates the purspose and the policies and state laws governing the programs." ( Id. ¶ 45.)

Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. ( Id. at PageID 8-9.) He also seeks an order directing the TDOC to change Plaintiff's records to reflect that he is no longer STG. ( Id. at PageID 9.)

Plaintiff also alleges that he previously filed a lawsuit about his assignment to the SMU Program at the WTSP ( id. ¶ 7, at PageID 5), but that, "[w]ithout legal aid and without knowledge of law and proper legal form, I soon became lost in the legal battle and unable to afford an attorney, I dropped the suit" ( id. ¶ 8). By way of background, on October 24, 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the TDOC, Defendants Lester, Bryant, and Maloney, and other parties, addressing his transfer to the SMU Program at the WTSP after the closure of the STG unit at the BCCX. Means v. Lester, No. 2:13-cv-02836-JDT-cgc (W.D. Tenn. Feb. 26, 2014) (dismissed for failure to state a claim).[3]

The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint-

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune ...

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