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Jones v. Jackson State Prison

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

February 12, 2015

LAREGINALD JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
JACKSON STATE PRISON, et al., Defendants.

ORDER AND RECOMMENDATION

STEPHEN HYLES, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff LaReginald Jones, who is currently incarcerated at the Jackson State Prison in Jackson, Georgia, filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks leave to proceed without prepayment of the $350.00 filing fee or security therefor pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Based on his submissions, the undersigned finds that Plaintiff is currently unable to pre-pay the filing fee. Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2) is thus GRANTED. This does not mean that the filing fee is waived. Plaintiff must still eventually pay the full amount of the $350.00 filing fee using the payment plan described in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). The filing fee is not refundable, regardless of the outcome of Plaintiff's case, and Plaintiff is responsible for paying the entire filing fee even if his lawsuit is dismissed prior to service.

Now, the undersigned must conduct a preliminary screening of the complaint because Plaintiff is a prisoner who "seeks redress from a governmental entity or [an] officer or employee of a governmental entity." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

When conducting preliminary screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true. Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006). Pro se pleadings, like the complaint in this case, are "held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Still, the Court must dismiss a prisoner complaint if it "(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 from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

A claim is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Miller v. Donald, 541 F.3d 1091, 1100 (11th Cir. 2008). The Court may dismiss claims that are based on "indisputably meritless legal" theories and "claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not include "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The factual allegations in a complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" and cannot "merely create[] a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (second alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted) . In other words, the complaint must allege enough facts "to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" supporting a claim. Id. at 556. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff alleges the following facts in support of his claims; the Court must construe these allegations as true for purposes of this preliminary screening. On January 1, 2015, at Jackson State Prison, Plaintiff and his bunk mate Russell Waylon went to retrieve their medications at "Pill call." Compl. ¶ V, ECF No. 1. Upon their return, Waylon discovered that items from his cell had been stolen. Waylon informed Officer Marriot who locked Plaintiff in his cell while he investigated. Plaintiff was questioned about the whereabouts of the items by Officer Marriot in the presence of "several gang members." Id. Plaintiff was then taken upstairs where he was threatened with physical assault by the gang members. Officer Marriot and the gang members searched a cell belonging to Fabienne McClendon, a friend of Plaintiff. The stolen items were found in McClendon's cell and Plaintiff was again threatened by the gang members. Plaintiff returned downstairs in the Prison where he and McClendon were physically assaulted by "12 gang members" in view of Officer Marriot who "took off running." Id. Plaintiff suffered face lacerations, a busted lip, and a stomach injury. Plaintiff and McClendon were then transferred from B-House to A-House within the prison.

The same day, Officer Marriot entered A-House and told Plaintiff that he and McClendon had "got[ten] him written up." Id. at 8. Plaintiff informed Officer Marriot that he feared for his life around him and asked if he could be moved to avoid a repeat assault. Officer Marriot refused. Plaintiff was ultimately compelled to leave A-House because he feared for his life after Officer Marriot told gang members that he stole from the gang.

Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as nominal, compensatory and punitive damages. Plaintiff further seeks dental replacement of "the jewelry that was on [his] teeth." Id. at ¶ 15.

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff asserts his claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a § 1983 claim, Plaintiff must allege that a Defendant "acting under color of state law committed an act that deprived [Plaintiff] of some right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Hale v. Tallapoosa Cnty., 50 F.3d 1579, 1582 (11th Cir. 1985); accord 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff asserts a claim of deliberate indifference against the following Defendants: Jackson State Prison; Officer Marriot; Jackson County, Georgia; and Warden Chatman.

The Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to "take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.'" Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1099 (11th Cir. 2014) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994)). The Eighth Amendment can give rise to claims based on a prison official's failure "to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners." Id. (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 833). The Eighth Amendment can also "give rise to claims challenging specific conditions of confinement, the excessive use of force, and the deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs." Thomas v. Bryant, 614 F.3d 1288, 1303-04 (11th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). An Eighth Amendment claim "requires a two-prong showing: an objective showing of a deprivation or injury that is sufficiently serious to constitute a denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities and a subjective showing that the official" acted with deliberate indifference. Id. at 1304 (internal quotation marks omitted). In other words, Plaintiff must allege "(1) a substantial risk of serious harm; (2) the defendants' deliberate indifference to that risk; and (3) causation." Caldwell, 748 F.3d at 1099 (internal quotation marks ...


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