United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
ORDER AND RECOMMENDATION
STEPHEN HYLES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
case is currently before the United States Magistrate Judge
for preliminary screening as required by the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
Plaintiff Roderick Jackson, an inmate confined at Macon State
Prison, filed the above-captioned proceeding seeking relief
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the reasons discussed below,
Plaintiff may proceed with his Eighth Amendment claims
against Defendants McKenzie and McLaughlin as they relate to
his confinement in administrative segregation. Plaintiff may
also proceed with his First Amendment retaliation claims
against Defendants McLaughlin and McKenzie. Plaintiff may
also proceed with his Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) claims against all
Defendants, but to the extent that he seeks monetary damages
under RLUIPA, or to bring his RLUIPA claims against
Defendants in their individual capacities, it is
RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's RLUIPA
claims be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's claims
against Defendant McLaughlin based on respondeat superior be
DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJDUICE. It is
RECOMMNEDED that Plaintiff's remaining
Eighth Amendment claims-including those based on (1) a
failure to train, (2) Plaintiff's initial transfer to
Macon State Prison, and (3) Plaintiff's confinement in
general population be DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE. It is RECOMMENDED that
Plaintiff's conspiracy, defamation, and Fourteenth
Amendment claims also be DIMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE. It is further
RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's Section
1983 claims against Defendant Georgia Department of
Corrections be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
initiated this action by filing a complaint in the Superior
Court of Macon County on August 29, 2016. Accompanying
Plaintiff's complaint was a “Notice of Lawsuit and
Request for Waiver of service of Summons” in which
Plaintiff requested that Defendants waive service of process
and obtain a copy of his complaint from the Macon Superior
Court. See Notice, ECF No. 1-4 at 8. Defendants did
not file a waiver of service, and Plaintiff filed a second
document in which he requested the Macon County Superior
Court “order default judgment.” Pl.'s Showing
Documents Sent, ECF No. 1-4 at 14. The Superior Court of
Macon County denied Plaintiff's motion for default
judgment on June 23, 2017. See Order Denying
Plaintiff's Motion, ECF No. 1-4 at 2. Defendants were
then served on June 29, 2017. Sheriff's Entry of Service,
ECF No. 1-2 at 2. Defendants filed an answer and a notice of
removal on July 28, 2017. Defendants have paid the
Court's $400.00 filing fee, and this case is now ripe for
review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
Preliminary Review of Plaintiff's
Standard for Preliminary Review
the PLRA, the district courts are obligated to conduct a
preliminary screening of every complaint filed by a prisoner
seeking redress from a government entity, official, or
employee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Screening
is also required, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), when the
plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis (IFP).
Only Section 1915A(a) is applicable here, but the standard of
review is the same. See Thompson v. Hicks, 213 F.
App'x 939, 942 (11th Cir. 2007) (Section 1915A
“does not distinguish between in forma
pauperis plaintiffs and plaintiffs who pay the filing
fee, ” review is appropriate for both). When conducting
a preliminary review, the district court must accept all
factual allegations in the complaint as true and make all
inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Brown v.
Johnson, 387 F.3d 1344, 1347 (11th Cir. 2004). Pro
se pleadings are also “held to a less stringent
standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys, ” and a
pro se complaint is thus “liberally
construed.” Tannenbaum v. United States, 148
F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998) (per curiam). However, the
district court cannot allow a plaintiff to litigate
frivolous, conclusory, or speculative claims. As part of the
preliminary screening, the court shall dismiss a complaint,
or any part thereof, prior to service, if it is apparent that
the plaintiff's claims are frivolous or if his
allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted - i.e., that the plaintiff is not entitled to relief
based on the facts alleged. See § 1915A(b);
state a viable claim, the complaint must include
“enough factual matter” to “give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests” and create “a
reasonable expectation” that discovery will reveal
evidence to prove the claim(s). Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). The claims cannot
be speculative or based solely on beliefs or suspicions but
must be supported by allegations of relevant and discoverable
fact. Id. Thus, neither legal conclusions nor a
recitation of legally relevant terms, standing alone, is
sufficient to survive preliminary review. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009) (“labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements” of a cause of action is not enough). Claims
without an arguable basis in law or fact will be dismissed as
frivolous. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319,
325 (1989); Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349
(11th Cir. 2001) (claims frivolous if “clearly
baseless” or “legal theories are indisputably
Background and Plaintiff's Claims
complains that he is a “minimum security level
inmate” inappropriately transferred to Macon State
Prison, a “level 5 facility which houses a mixture of
dangerous close security level inmates and dangerous medium
security level inmates.” Compl. 6, ECF No. 1-1.
Plaintiff states that being confined at Macon State Prison
poses a likelihood of “imminent harm and substantial
injury to Plaintiff's person.” Id.
Plaintiff claims that after due to his transfer he is in
constant fear of being hurt or killed and receives threats
from other inmates. Id. at 9. He claims the constant
fear and stress result in “severe sleep disorders in
Plaintiff.” Plaintiff states that he is so deprived of
sleep that he exists in a “zone of danger.”
Plaintiffs appears to mean that he “could suddenly lose
consciousness” while performing daily activities and
injure himself. Id. at 10.
to Plaintiff, the officers at Macon State Prison are not
trained to “deal with an individual who has mental
health problems.” Id. at 15. Plaintiff claims
that when he complained of the “zone of danger”
at Macon State Prison, he was placed in disciplinary
segregation. Plaintiff believes this was retaliatory.
Plaintiff also alleges that his placement in administrative
segregation amounts to a violation of his Eighth Amendment
rights due to a risk that his mental health could deteriorate
causing Plaintiff to require hospitalization.
Plaintiff's religious beliefs prevent him from consuming
meat. Accordingly, Plaintiff “continually requested
that he be provided vegan meal trays.” Id. at
11. Plaintiff's requests were not honored, and Plaintiff
claims he “suffer[ed] from extreme hunger, ”
presumably as a result of foregoing meat based meals.
According to Plaintiff, his hunger pressured him to modify
his religious behavior and violate his religious beliefs as
he “was forced against his religious beliefs” to
eat meat. Id. at 12.
construing the above allegations it appears that Plaintiff
seeks to bring Eighth Amendment claims based on (1) his
transfer to a high security prison, (2) deficiencies in the
training of Macon State prison personnel, (3) his placement
in segregation, and (4) his failure to received appropriate
mental health treatment as well as First Amendment
retaliation claims based on his placement in segregation, a
RLUIPA claim based on his religious diet; and a Fourteenth
Amendment Due Process claim. Plaintiff has also referenced
defamation and conspiracy as claims in this action.
Eighth Amendment Claims
Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual
punishment circumscribes “unnecessary and wanton
infliction of pain.” Thomas v. Bryant, 614
F.3d 1288, 1303 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Hudson v.
McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992)). The Eleventh Circuit
recognizes “three distinct Eighth Amendment claims
available to plaintiff inmates alleging cruel and unusual
punishment, each of which requires a different showing to
establish a constitutional violation.” Id.
(citing Danley v. Allen, 540 F.3d 1298, 1306 (11th
Cir. 2008)). Eighth Amendment prisoner claims may include
those challenging conditions of confinement, excessive use of
force, and deliberate indifference to a prisoner's
serious medical needs. Id. Here, Plaintiff raises
Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claims which has
both an objective and subjective component.
satisfy the objective component, a prisoner must show that
the conditions are extreme and pose an unreasonable risk of
serious damage to an inmate's future health or safety.
Helling v. McKinney 509 U.S. 25, 35 (1993). The
Eighth Amendment guarantees only that an inmate will not be
“deprive[d] . . . of the minimal civilized measure of
life's necessities.” Chandler v. Crosby,
379 F.3d 1278, 1289 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)). To satisfy the
subjective component, a prisoner must show that the defendant
acted with deliberate indifference, by showing the defendant
knew of, and disregarded, an excessive risk to inmate health
and safety. McElligott v. Foley, 182 F.3d 1248, 1255
(11th Cir. 1999) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825, 837 (1994)).
Defendant Georgia Department of Corrections
seeks to hold the Georgia Department of Corrections liable
for his transfer and the deficient training of Macon State
Prison guards. Plaintiff first complains that he was
inappropriately transferred from a minimum security prison to
Macon State Prison, a “level 5 facility, ” which
houses medium security and close security inmates. Plaintiff
claims the transfer was made by prison officials “while
knowing the likelihood of imminent harm and substantial
injury” Plaintiff would face as a result of the
transfer. According to Plaintiff, the injury he faced was
exacerbated by his mental health condition. Plaintiff further
alleges that while he was housed at Macon State Prison, he
was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. However,
Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may
Constitution does not “guarantee that the convicted
prisoner will be placed in any particular prison.”
Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 223 (1976). Rather,
“[i]t is plain that the transfer of an inmate to less
amenable and more restrictive quarters for non-punitive
reasons is well within the terms of confinement ordinarily
contemplated by a prison sentence.” Al-Amin v.
Donald, 165 F. App'x 733, 738-39 (11th Cir. 2006)
(per curiam) (alteration in original) (quoting Hewitt v.
Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 468 (1983)). Plaintiff argues that
his transfer rises to the level of deliberate indifference
because of his mental illness. Plaintiff, however, has not
explained the nature of his mental illness or how his
condition would put him at risk in general population
confinement. Plaintiff also has not alleged that his mental
health condition is such ...