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Crouchman v. Pickens County Council

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division

February 3, 2017

Jeffrey William Crouchman, Plaintiff,
Pickens County Council, Sheriff Rick Clark, Captain Nix, Lt. Kristi Leopard, Sgt. Visage, Sgt Tomberlin, Deputy Evans, Officer Nowaczcki, Officer Hardy, Officer Talley and Officer Morales, Defendants.


          Bristow Marchant, United States Magistrate Judge

         This action has been filed by the Plaintiff, pro se, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, who at the time this action was filed was a pretrial detainee at the Pickens County Detention Center, [1] alleges violations of his constitutional rights by the named Defendants while he was housed at the Detention Center.

         The Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, Fed.R.Civ.P., on November 10, 2016. As the Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, a Roseboro order was entered by the Court on November 15, 2016, advising Plaintiff of the importance of a dispositive motion and of the need for him to file an adequate response. Plaintiff was specifically advised that if he failed to respond adequately, the Defendants' motion may be granted, thereby ending his case. After initially failing to respond (See Court Docket No. 46), Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the Defendants' motion January 9, 2017. The Defendants thereafter filed a reply memorandum on January 17, 2017.

         The Defendants' motion is now before the Court for disposition.[2]

         Background and Evidence[3]

         Plaintiff, a frequent filer of pro se litigation in this Court, has submitted a verified Complaint[4] containing a hodgepodge of claims and allegations. Plaintiff alleges that during the relevant time period he was a pretrial detainee at the Detention Center, that the Defendant Pickens County Council is responsible for the oversight and maintenance of the Detention Center, that the Defendant Sheriff Rick Clark is responsible for the care, health and safety of inmates at the Detention Center, and that the remaining Defendants are all employees of the Sheriff's Office and/or the Detention Center.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was booked into the Detention Center on November 12, 2015, at which time he advised a “Sgt. Underwood” that he had a heart condition and that his situation had not changed since he was there a few months earlier. Plaintiff alleges that because of his physical limitations due to his heart condition and “obvious risk of harm if he was placed in general population”, that B-Block was the best place for him to be housed.[5] However, Plaintiff alleges that “immediately after being placed in B-Block, [he] observed filthy condition in the Unit, including fifty year old sinks and toilets that were corroded and full of mold, shower stall and bathroom walls and ceiling covered with black mold, brown water that periodically comes out of sink, filthy mold in and under rim of toilet, plumbing that does not work properly, sinks and toilets that backup and remain non-working for several days at a time, sometimes a week or more and requests to fix them are ignored, and the bathroom and common area where the shower is located is sometimes two inches deep of water mixed with urine, as well mold in cell”. Plaintiff further complains that he was not seen immediately by the medical staff during intake screening, even though he cannot miss a day of taking his medication because of his heart condition. Plaintiff also complains that there is “no provision in jail policy for detainee's to receive needed meds immediately”, and that, as of the filing of his Complaint, he was “still waiting to see mental health professional for his psychiatric needs and meds”, complaining that he had been at the jail for “3 months now [and] still waiting”.

         Plaintiff further complains that telephone use is restricted and he is only allowed to use the telephone on Sundays and Wednesdays, usually between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. which is “too early”. Plaintiff also complains that there is “no provision for calling your attorney”. Plaintiff further complains that toilet paper is only handed out once a week, and that inmates are denied toilet paper daily even if they “run out”. He also complains that there is no TV in B-Block, even though every other cell block has a TV as well as phone use daily.[6] Plaintiff complains about not being allowed these privileges, even though he is not in B-Block for disciplinary reasons, and that he has had to “chose between being at risk of harm due to his health [while having] privileges or being safe with no privileges and living in filth”.

         Plaintiff alleges that inmates in B-Block are continuously being denied cleaning supplies, that when cleaning supplies are brought they consist of a “dirty mop bucket with water and sometimes pine sol or very little bleach, a dirty never washed mop head, a broom, a filthy broken dust pan”, and a spray bottle with a watered down cleaner in it. Plaintiff further complains that the brush provided for cleaning the toilet is “inappropriate” and does not allow inmates to “get under the rim”.

         Plaintiff alleges that when he was assigned to his cell there was dried feces on the wall and under the bunk, which another inmate told him was due to an inmate who had been in that cell who had a leaky colostomy bag that had leaked all over the place. Plaintiff alleges that although he complained to Officers Morales, Talley, Harvey, Nowaczcki (all Defendants) and others he was not provided with “proper cleaning supplies or gloves to clean the feces”. Plaintiff specifically alleges that when he asked Officer Hamilton (not a Defendant) about getting some cleaning supplies on December 1, 2015, that she replied that he would be getting his cleaning supplies in the morning. Plaintiff complains that he was told this by Hamilton even though he had been “asking for a day”. Plaintiff also alleges that he spoke to the Defendant Captain Nix on December 2, 2015 about the “filthy conditions in B-Block”, and that Nix was “very adamant” about not being able to do anything because the Defendant Pickens County Council would not provide needed funds to purchase adequate cleaning supplies, although he did tell Plaintiff that he would look into getting Plaintiff a shower brush and “proper supplies” to allow Plaintiff to clean his cell. Even so, Plaintiff complains that it “never happened”.

         Plaintiff alleges that on December 18, 2015 he was “let out to clean” after he had not been given supplies and B-Block had not been cleaned “for a week”. Plaintiff alleges that he had complained to two officers (neither of whom are named Defendants) that his constitutional rights were being violated because his cell conditions were “disgustingly filthy”, to which one of the officers (“Jessica”) responded that County Council “won't give funds to clean up the jail”. Even so, “Jessica” provided him with a “small amount of bleach”. Plaintiff then goes on to complain about how another inmate was treated on December 27, 2015.[7]

         Plaintiff alleges that on December 31, 2015 “water flooded in hall” due to a toilet and sink in B-Block not working. Plaintiff complains that sinks and toilets in B-Block would break or malfunction and not be fixed “for days”, and that on occasion Plaintiff had to be “let out to use the common area bathroom because his toilet don't work”. Plaintiff also alleges that on January 11, 2016 he was “taken outside for REC” for the first time in five weeks and for only one hour. Plaintiff alleges that the next time he was taken out for REC was on January 29, 2016, and then again two weeks after that. Plaintiff then goes on to continue to complain about a general lack of cleaning supplies, as well as about a sink backing up in a neighboring cell that was not fixed for four days.

         Plaintiff complains that on January 27, 2016 the hall light filled with water during a rain storm from the roof leaking. Plaintiff complains that when the light was removed for repair, “live wires” were left hanging from the ceiling for “several days”. Plaintiff then complains that his toilet either broke or stopped working on several occasions during January and February 2016, again causing him to have to use the common area bathroom during those occasions. Plaintiff alleges that on February 16, 2016 he tried to talk to the Defendant Lt. Leopard about “several issues”, but that Leopard responded in an “extremely condescending tone and attitude”. Plaintiff further alleges that he complained to Leopard about being “repeatedly denied” from being able to file a grievance on various issues he raises in this Complaint, but that Leopard told him the jail was not obligated to “provide any kind of notary or legal copy service or postage . . . .”. Plaintiff further alleges that he had made requests to the Defendant Tomberlin and another officer (Underwood) for “copies of legal work needed to submit to the court”, but was told that requests for notary service and legal copies had to go through Leopard. However, Plaintiff alleges that his requests to Leopard were “ignored for weeks”.

         Plaintiff further complains that the Detention Center has a policy of never giving out receipts for any transactions such as deposits or withdrawals from prisoner accounts, leaving inmates with no idea of the status of their account. Plaintiff alleges that when inmates complained about this situation, including to Lt. Leopard, nothing was done. Plaintiff also complains that B-Block does not have adequate fire safety - that there are no smoke alarms or sprinklers in the cells or halls, and no exhaust fans “anywhere in the jail”. Plaintiff also complains that there are no fire evacuation plans posted anywhere. Further, the ventilation system is allegedly substandard, which Plaintiff claims causes a serious problem with dust and airborne mold spores that inmates are forced to breathe, especially in B-Block. Plaintiff also complains that the vents are “filthy [and] in need of cleaning” as well as that there are no exhaust fans in the bathroom/shower. Additionally, the plumbing is in disrepair. However, Plaintiff alleges that all requests for grievances are denied, with the Defendants blaming County Council for not giving them sufficient funds to solve all these problems.

         Plaintiff also complains that, in addition to the locks that are already on the doors, there are also chains and padlocks on cell doors in B-Block because the jail staff claims the doors can be opened. Plaintiff complains that this is a fire safety hazard, as it requires two different keys to open the cell. Plaintiff further complains that the jail does not have a law library, nor do inmates have any access to legal reference material or resources of any kind, including that Lt. Leopard insists on blocking all access to legal assistance or research by blocking computers from being able to access legal information on Google or other websites. Plaintiff alleges that this has denied him proper access to the courts.

         Plaintiff also complains that the food at the jail is “substandard”, and that it is “very doubtful” that inmates daily calorie intake is more than 1, 500 calories. Plaintiff states that the typical menu “consists of a helping of grits and 2 slices of bread for breakfast, cereal on weekends, extremely thin slice of salami and bread everyday for lunch with potato chips everyday, and the dinners are very minimal with very limited nutritional value at all, if any”. Plaintiff alleges that the jail staff members, including the Defendants Tomberlin and Hardy, blame not having a better diet for inmates on poor funding from County Council. Plaintiff also complains that, apparently due to purported cuts in funding from County Council, indigent stamped envelopes were reduced from 2 per week to 2 every other week.

         Plaintiff also complains that the jail has a “two book only policy” implemented by Lt. Leopard, wherein inmates are allowed to have only two books at a time. Plaintiff complains that this is because he is in B-Block, even though he is not there for disciplinary reasons. Plaintiff alleges that on or about February 8, 2016 a “stack of books” came to B-Block from operations, some of which were for the Plaintiff, but that the Defendants Tomberlin and Leopard would only allow Plaintiff to have access to two books at a time. Plaintiff complains that because of this policy he did not receive a “Christian book” that had been sent to him because he already had two books. Plaintiff also alleges that Leopard has instituted a blanket ban on all newspapers and magazines.

         Plaintiff alleges that the jail does not have anywhere to house inmates with special needs unless they are put in administrative segregation with no privileges (such as the Plaintiff), which amounts to punishment. Plaintiff also alleges that in early February 2016 he and the other inmates in B-Block “were awoken to very strong paint fumes”. Apparently some painting was going on, and Plaintiff complained that he was being “forced” to breath paint fumes with no air, fan, or fresh air source. Plaintiff alleges that when he complained, the Defendant Evans told him “I am doing the best I can”. Plaintiff notes that Evans told him that they (the prison guards) were having to smell the same air, but Plaintiff alleges that that still “doesn't make it right . . . .”. Plaintiff alleges that this happened again on February 27, 2016. Plaintiff further complains that the jail has a policy of not exchanging sheets or blankets, that sheets are expected to be put in a one foot by one and a half foot laundry bag which does not leave room for sheets to be washed adequately, and that he had the same blanket for three an a half months. Plaintiff also claims that the Defendants Morales and Nowaczcki should be held liable for “trying to move [Plaintiff] back into population despite [his] medical condition”.

         Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants' failure to remedy these problems constitutes a deliberate indifference to his and other inmates' health and safety, as a result of which Plaintiff “has received serious physical and emotional injuries” due to his exposure to these conditions. Plaintiff also complains that the jail has a “policy of seizing cell phones and wallets and personal property and housing them, not allowing inmates to release them to family members”, thereby causing an unconstitutional “loss of property”. Plaintiff seek declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages, to include punitive damages.

         Plaintiff has attached to his Complaint a “memorandum” in support, as well as a “declaration”. Plaintiff's “declaration” repeats many of the allegations of his Complaint, and adds that since “coming back into this facility” he has developed a serious sinus infection along with an ear infection and a sore throat. Plaintiff states that he “now cannot get rid of this infection” even though he acknowledges having been given two different kinds of antibiotics.[8] Finally, Plaintiff has provided “declarations” from other jail inmates in which these inmates echo many of the same complaints made by the Plaintiff, including that their meals are not adequate, they are not provided with adequate or proper cleaning supplies, and complaining generally about the conditions at the jail. See generally, Plaintiff's Verified Complaint, with attached Exhibits.

         In support of summary judgment in the case, the Defendant Kristy Leopard has submitted an affidavit wherein she attests that she is a Lieutenant at the Pickens County Detention Center, that the Plaintiff was last detained at the Detention Center from November 2015 till March 23, 2016, and that he was released from custody on March 23, 2016 and “has not returned”.

         Leopard attests that when Plaintiff was at the Detention Center he was housed in B-Block as opposed to the general population at his request. Even so, Leopard attests that while prison staff do not have access to Plaintiff's medical records, he has been seen many times by Southern Health Partners while he was detained at the Detention Center, and that no instructions have ever been received from Southern Health Partners that Plaintiff is required to be segregated from the general population. Rather, Leopard attests that Plaintiff was housed in B-Block at his request. Leopard also attests that B-Block was originally designed as a holding cell area and is adjacent to the control room. It contains several individual cells which open to a common area, with each individual cell containing either one or two beds, a toilet and a sink. Additionally, there is also a toilet, a sink and a shower in the open common area.

         Leopard attests that this area is used to house prisoners who, for various reasons, have separation orders from prisoners in other areas of the facility as well as prisoners who wish to be under closer supervision due to medical complaints. Leopard attests that Plaintiff does not fall into either category. Further, even though new detainees are typically temporarily housed in the common area (not the individual cells) until they bond out or are classified and assigned to a Block based upon their classification, Plaintiff was not housed in the common area but had his own cell adjacent to the common area. Leopard attests that for most of the time Plaintiff was detained at the Detention Center, he was housed in a single cell where he would have been the only occupant, although for a limited time he was housed in a double cell, where he shared his cell with another occupant, each having their own bed.

         Leopard attests that the control room area immediately adjacent to B-Block is where detainees are processed and travel to and from throughout the day, and that for the security of the various detainees as well as staff, the B-Block area has to stay on lock down. Leopard reiterates, however, that Plaintiff chose to be housed in this area under these conditions, as he had no separate orders, protection orders, or medical orders which would have otherwise kept him from being housed in the general population. Leopard further attests that there is a grievance procedure at the Detention Center, that Plaintiff was never denied the right to file a grievance, nor has there ever been any repercussions for detainees who choose to utilized the grievance procedure. However, Plaintiff chose not to utilize the grievance procedure and would instead occasionally send her written notes, copies of which Leopard has attached to her affidavit as Exhibit A. Leopard further attests that other than the issues raised in the handwritten notes attached to her affidavit, the Summons and Complaint in this matter was her first notice with respect to almost all of the issues raised by Plaintiff in the Complaint.

         Leopard attests that, as previously noted, Plaintiff had a toilet in his cell and there was also a toilet in the common area. Leopard further attests that if a detainee's toilet and/or sink are temporarily not working, they are given access to a working toilet and sink at their request, that Plaintiff would have always had access upon request to a toilet and sink in the event his was not working, and that when there are any plumbing problems at the Detention Center they put in a work order with Pickens County and all repairs are made by the County. Leopard also attests that the Detention Center is aware that there has been an issue with mold in the shower area, that as a result Pickens County retained a remediation service, and that the mold was removed in May 2016, which was after Plaintiff would have been released. Leopard further attests that in order to remove the mold they had to find a separate facility to house an entire block of inmates, as this procedure could not be performed while inmates were housed in the area, and that therefore the facility's time table to remediate mold was based on the availability of space at other detention centers to temporarily house inmates. Leopard attests that this is why the mold remediation was not able to be scheduled until May.

         Leopard attests that all medical services at the Detention Center are provided pursuant to contract with Southern Health Partners, that Southern Health Partners does a medical intake screening of all detainees within the first twenty-four hours of their stay at the facility, and that any referrals to specialists are done by Southern Health Partners. With respect to phone access, Leopard attests that detainees in B-Block are allowed access to the phone on Wednesdays and Sundays, and that while the time the phone becomes available begins at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, there would be other opportunities to use the phone during the week other than 7:30 a.m. on Sundays. Leopard further attests that the phone access policy for B-Block is designed to limit ingress and egress from the B-Block area as a result of the security issues referenced earlier in her affidavit with regard to the amount of detainee ingress and egress in the control room area.

         With respect to toilet paper, Leopard attests that detainees are not charged for toilet paper and are allowed to receive a new roll of toilet paper when they have used the roll they have been given. As such, although not more than one roll of toilet paper is allowed in an inmates's cell at one time, inmates are allowed unlimited toilet paper. As for general cleaning supplies, Leopard attests that because arriving and departing inmates are kept in the area near the control room during the period of time they are either awaiting a bond hearing or classification, it is sometimes not possible to bring any cleaning supplies into the common area or cell area B-Block until after 9 a.m. However, after 9 a.m. cleaning supplies are delivered and available for detainees to use to clean their cells and the common area, if they so choose. Leopard attests that the common area does not serve as permanent housing, and to the extent the common area is to be cleaned and maintained, it is the responsibility of the detainees who are housed in the B-Block area. Leopard attests that cleaning supplies provided include a mop, a mop bucket, cleaning liquids and a shower brush, and there would not have been any three month period where a shower brush was not delivered to B-Block, as alleged in the Complaint.

         Leopard further attests that she is familiar with the detainee referred to in the Complaint who had a colostomy bag. Leopard attests that the inmate housed in B-Block with a colostomy bag was there several months prior to Plaintiff's arrival, that her experience with this inmate was that he is extremely conscientious regarding cleanliness, and that he is currently housed with other detainees in a pod where they have had no complaints regarding his cleanliness or hygiene. Further, Leopard attests that during the time period this inmate was housed in B-Block as well as subsequent thereto, there would have been cleaning supplies available for both this inmate as well as for subsequent detainees, including the Plaintiff, to mop the floor area if that was needed. Leopard further attests that if there had been any kind of issue in the cell area beyond a routine necessity to clean, that trustees would have been assigned to clean the area. However, ...

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