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Henderson v. Corrections Corporation of America

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

January 9, 2017




         Plaintiff, a state prisoner appearing with counsel, brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for initial proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

         I. Complaint/Background

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this action on January 17, 2017. At that time, Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (“OSP”), a maximum security prison in McAlester, Oklahoma. Plaintiff is serving two life sentences for Robbery with a Firearm and Shooting with Intent to Kill, as well as two concurrent ten-year terms of imprisonment for Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon and Third Degree Arson. He is also serving a concurrent five year term of imprisonment for Larceny of an Automobile.

         Plaintiff's allegations in the Complaint involve the period of time when he was incarcerated at Cimarron Correctional Facility (“CCF”), a private prison owned and operated by CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America (“CCA”), prior to his transfer to OSP.

         Plaintiff alleges in his Complaint that Defendants CCA (now CoreCivic) and CCF officials Miller, Cox, Battles, Franklin, Wallis, Waters, Shannon, and Hilligoss violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from injuries caused by other prisoners in a physical altercation occurring on January 14, 2015, and he seeks damages for this alleged constitutional deprivation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994)(holding prison officials have the duty, imposed by the Eighth Amendment, “to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners”). Defendants Franklin and Wallis were previously dismissed from the action.

         Plaintiff alleges in the Complaint that during his incarceration in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (“ODOC”), beginning in 2008, he was “harassed, targeted and assaulted by a particular gang within the [O]DOC system.” Complaint (Doc. # 1), at 5. Plaintiff alleges that he submitted grievances and requests to unidentified correctional officials “notifying these officials of the life-threatening dangers he faced within the [O]DOC system and requesting protective services, including transfer to a facility in another State.” Id. Plaintiff also alleges that he submitted “numerous requests for protection to . . . Miller, Hilligoss, Cox, Battles, Wallis and Waters for years . . . [but] none of these Defendants took any measure to protect Mr. Henderson.” Id. at 6.

         Plaintiff contends that on January 21, 2013, he submitted a Request to Staff (“RTS”) to “a [O]DOC Case Manager stating his concern about retaliation from a gang he had issues with . . . .” Id. at 5. Plaintiff alleges he requested an out-of-state transfer “before it is too late” and his “request was denied.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that this RTS gave “CCA, including [former CCF] Warden Miller, [CCF] Chief Hilligoss and [CCF] Security Chief Cox, knowledge that Plaintiff was at an excessive risk of bodily harm” but these Defendants “took no measures to protect Mr. Henderson, such as segregated housing or additional supervision, in deliberate indifference to his safety.” Id.

         Plaintiff alleges he “made numerous requests for protection” from “a particular gang, ” but that he “was left to fend for himself in general population” at CCF. Id. Plaintiff also alleges he “had been attacked on numerous occasions by a particular gang.” Plaintiff does not identify in the Complaint the name of this so- called “gang” or the names of any individuals who had allegedly assaulted him.

         Plaintiff contends that on January 13, 2015, his “cousin, ” who was also housed at CCF, “was assaulted in his cell by the same gang that had previously assaulted Mr. Henderson, ” yet “Defendants took no action to protect” Plaintiff. Id. at 7. Plaintiff alleges that on January 14, 2015, he “was brutally assaulted by members of the particular gang in his general population cell. He was stabbed 17 times, and suffered severe injuries, including lacerations, abrasions and punctures to his chest, face, upper and lower back and arms. He suffered intense and extreme physical and mental pain and anguish.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that former Defendant Franklin, a CCF correctional officer, “allowed” the other prisoners to enter Plaintiff's cell. Id. at 7-8.

         Plaintiff alleges Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his health and safety, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights, and that this deliberate indifference was “in furtherance of and consistent with policies, customs and/or practices which [Defendant former CCF] Warden Miller and CCA [now CoreCivic] promulgated, created, implemented or possessed responsibility for the continued operation of [sic].” Id. at 8. Finally, Plaintiff alleges an “out of control atmosphere and custom of violence [was] fostered by CCA” (now CoreCivic), including a previous “riot/gang battle at CCF” in 2015 resulting in four inmates' deaths, and other incidents of violence that “evidence . . . an unchecked and unrestrained custom of violence at the CCF.” Id. He alleges a lack of supervision and inadequate staffing at CCF.

         Before the Court is Defendants CCA, Miller, Cox, Hilligoss, Shannon, Battles, and Waters' (“Defendants”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 45), seeking summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 due to Plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).[1] Plaintiff has responded to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, and Defendants have filed a Reply to the Response.

         II. Review of Summary Judgment Motion

         Summary judgment may be granted when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In considering a summary judgment motion, the court reviews the evidence and inferences drawn from the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Burke v. Utah Transit Auth. & Local, 462 F.3d 1253, 1258 (10th Cir. 2006)(quotation omitted). A dispute is “genuine” if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “Material facts” are “facts which might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Id. “At the summary judgment stage, a complainant cannot rest on mere allegations, but must set forth by affidavit or other evidence specific facts, which for purposes of the summary judgment motion will be taken to be true.” Burke, 462 F.3d at 1258 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for Thus, Defendants' previously-filed Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 23) is DENIED AS MOOT. Plaintiff's argument in his responsive pleading that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 47) is not properly filed is without merit. the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)(quotation marks omitted).

         III. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies Under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a)

         The Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), enacted in 1996, requires a prisoner to exhaust his or her administrative remedies prior to filing a lawsuit in federal court challenging prison conditions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or any other Federal law. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). “[E]xhaustion requirements, ” like those in the PLRA, “are designed to . . . give the agency a fair and full opportunity to adjudicate their claims” before the plaintiff proceeds to file an action in federal court. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006). The PLRA's mandatory exhaustion requirement, see Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007), applies “to all inmate suits about ...

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