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Head v. Gammage

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division

February 6, 2019

TREVIO HEAD, Plaintiff,
v.
FRED GAMMAGE, Deputy Warden of Security, Telfair State Prison; WILLIAM DANFORTH, Warden, Telfair State Prison; ROBERT TOOLE, Field Operations Officer; STEVE UPTON, Classification; TERENCE KILPATRICK; SGT. MIXON; RODNEY MCCLOUD, Prison Official; and PHILLIP HALL, Defendants.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRIAN K. EM'S UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA

         Plaintiff, an inmate at Telfair State Prison (“TSP”) in Helena, Georgia, brought this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. The Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS Defendants' motion for summary judgment be GRANTED, (doc. no. 81), Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend be DENIED, (doc. no. 93), a final judgment be ENTERED in favor of Defendants, and this civil action be CLOSED.

         I. FACTS

         A. Plaintiff's Evidence of Gang Violence at TSP

         The only claim remaining at summary judgment is Plaintiff's deliberate indifference to safety claim against Defendants in their individual capacities, and at the core of this claim is Plaintiff's allegation TSP is rife with gang violence to such a degree that violence and terror reign. (See doc. no. 85.) Plaintiff has been an inmate at TSP from late 2013 to the present. (Stm. of Material Facts (“SMF”), doc. no. 81-1, Pl.'s Dep., doc. no. 81-3, p. 26.) Plaintiff has never been involved in any gang-related altercations while at TSP. (Id. at 41-42, 96, 144.) Additionally, he has never been physically attacked or injured at any time while at TSP. (Id.) Plaintiff denies being in a gang or classified as a gang member. (Id. at 25-26.)

         Plaintiff observed four gang-related fights at TSP beginning in 2015. (Id. at 94-95, 107-08, 119-22.) On December 2, 2015, Plaintiff observed members from two rival gangs, the Bloods and Crips, fight in front of Building A. (Id. at 94.) Plaintiff believes they were members of the Bloods and Crips because of what he heard from another inmate. (Id. at 95.) In December 2015, two inmates, believed by Plaintiff to be gang members, said to each other “let's quash our fights, let's quash our beef, ” while Defendants Kilpatrick and Mixon escorted them to their cells. (Id. at 73-76.) Defendants Kilpatrick and Mixon did not say anything while escorting the two inmates. (Id.) On December 3, 2015, TSP officers conducted a shakedown of Building C, and they confiscated twenty-three weapons and wrote nineteen disciplinary reports. (Doc. no. 85-2, pp. 19-30.) In January 2016, Plaintiff observed several gang members congregating outside the gym. (Pl.'s Dep., pp. 87-88.) He believed they were gang members because they were standing in a group and not playing basketball. (Id.) Other than standing in a group, the inmates were not doing anything. (Id.)

         On March 19, 2016, Warden Hall and Deputy Warden McCloud, along with Captain Sikes and Barbara Grant, addressed all eighty inmates, including Plaintiff, in Building B Dorm 2 about the recent violence in that dorm. (Id. at 57-61.) Either Warden Hall or Deputy Warden McCloud said “we place you guys in these dormitories” and “we expect you to lead.” (Id. at 61.) Also, Deputy Warden McCloud screamed “lead” during the speech. (Id.) The speech was not directed at or referencing any particular gang or gang members. (Id. 62-63.) Plaintiff has not observed or heard any Defendant provide gang members with instructions or authority regarding prison security. (Id. at 90-91.)

         At some point between July and December 2016, Plaintiff, while in Building B Dorm 2, observed a Blood gang member stab a Mexican gang member in Building C. (Id. at 104-08.) Plaintiff could not identify the inmates involved in the altercation. (Id. at 107.) He believed they were gang members because one was a “Mexican man” and the Blood gang member made a “war call.” (Id. at 107-108.)

         On June 8, 2016, between 5:40 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., a TSP correctional officer allowed members of the “Aron Brotherhood” gang to meet and assault another prisoner outside the gym at TSP. (Doc. no. 13, p. 3.) On June 10, 2016, CERT officers allowed “Gangster Disciples” to gather during yard time. (Id.) On either June 18 or June 19, 2016, Aron Brotherhood and Gangster Disciples members “tattooed a penis on [another inmate's] back that stated I am a child molester, ” and they forced another inmate to pack his stuff and leave the dorm. (Id.) On June 20, 2016, unknown gang members stabbed unknown individuals in Buildings D and G. (Id.) The prison was placed on lockdown as a result of these incidents. (Doc. no. 16, p. 3.)

         On July 12, 2016, TSP officials conducted a shakedown and confiscated fifty-five weapons, six cell phones, five cell phone chargers, 6.9 grams of marijuana, one external hard drive, four gallons of homemade alcohol, twelve green dot cards, two cellular phone batteries, five tattoo guns, and nine water heaters. (Doc. no. 85-2, pp. 19-20; doc. no. 16, pp. 1-2.) On July 25, 2016, gang members were involved in three more stabbings. (Doc. no. 16, p. 2.) On November 24, 2016, unknown Blood and Crip gang members assaulted each other. (Doc. no. 40, p. 5.) On December 2, 2016, unknown Blood gang members cut S-Rock, a former Blood gang member, in the face for being a snitch. (Id.)

         On December 8, 2016, Plaintiff signed a statement requesting protective custody and handed it to Lieutenant Clark on second shift between 2:08 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. (Id. at 7.) The next day, unknown Blood gang members threatened Plaintiff by letter as follows:

We told you one time about getting in the mix of things. The Admin. gave us everything to utalize [sic] the prison. We even tried to give you a piece. Do you think you can just deny what we tried to give you and you can still walk around prisons. Blood Gang will take care of you. We know exactly where you are bitchass nigga. And you can't run. We gonna [sic] have some real ‘fun' wit [sic] you. You come out the box. Do the right thing and keep that mouth shut. Ride for the prison or die in the prison and we have the resource that you know about. We gone get ya [sic] like the other snitch ass nigga don't feel me, feel that razor. Ha [sic]. Bitch.

(Id. at 9.)

         In November 2017, when housed in Building A Dorm 2, Plaintiff observed a Blood gang member stabbing another Blood gang member. (Pl.'s Dep., p. 119.) At some point in 2017, Blood gang members attacked a group of homosexuals in the Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”) dorm. (Id. at 121-23.) Plaintiff does not know if anyone in the PREA dorm was a gang member. (Id.) In December 2017, unknown individuals stabbed and killed a member of the “Ghostface” gang. (Id. at 124-25.)

         In January 2018, Plaintiff was threatened by a member of the “Gangster Disciples” to drop his lawsuit because the gang was everywhere including on the streets. (Id. at 51-53.) Plaintiff interpreted this to include a threat against his family and himself. (Id.) Plaintiff did not know the individual who threatened him. (Id.) Plaintiff reported this incident and requested protective custody from Ricky Wilcox. (Id.) Plaintiff did not report this incident to any Defendant. (Id.)

         By declaration, Travion Hall states Mexican gang members assaulted him from November 2017, to December 22, 2017. (Travion Decl., doc. no. 67-2, pp. 1-3.) Antonio Harris, Jr. declared Deputy Warden McCloud and Warden Hall authorized him to bring order in the PREA dorm as he pleased. (Harris Decl., doc. no. 68-2, p. 1.) When Deputy Warden McCloud and Warden Hall told Mr. Harris they wanted to keep the number of Blood and Mexican gang members balanced, Mr. Harris placed two people on the dorm doors and two unknown persons were stabbed. (Id. at 1-2.) Additionally, non-gang members were forced to pay dues for gangs to make weapons. (Id.) Mr. Harris later decided to no longer be a part of what he believed Deputy Warden McCloud and Warden Hall were doing and told them he would be “dropping the flag.” (Id. at 2.) Defendants McCloud and Warden Hall told him good luck. (Id.) On November 27, 2017, Mr. Harris was stabbed multiple times by three masked men. (Id. at 2-3.)

         Elvis Jewell declared he has personally seen, in the PREA dorm, Warden Hall encouraging gang and group leaders to “handle matters and problems, as they see fit, amongst themselves . . . .” (Jewell Decl., doc. no. 67-1, p. 1.) Mr. Jewell asserts Warden Hall's encouragement of gangs occurred after the gangs were the direct cause of violence. (Id.) He does not state any dates or specific incidents of violence. Further, Mr. Jewell asserts non-gang members, like himself, are “extorted” for their use of televisions, video time, and tablets. (Id. at 2.) When Mr. Jewell approached Warden Hall about these problems, Warden Hall stated he would order more gang members of another gang to ensure gang populations were equal. (Id.) Mr. Jewell does not allege to have been injured himself in any attack, but he is fearful he may be next. (Id. at 3.)

         B. Undisputed TSP Practices

         1. Inmate Housing and Classification Practices

         Upon entering the Georgia Department of Corrections (“GDC”) system, all inmates are housed at the same facility to be evaluated and classified by security risk, individual characteristics, and medical treatment needs. (SMF, Hall Decl., doc. no. 81-4, ¶ 5.) The purpose is to ensure GDC assigns inmates to the most appropriate prison within the GDC system. (Id.) GDC determines each inmate's security level of either minimum, medium, or close, taking into account criminal sentence, nature of conviction, criminal history, and any gang affiliation. (Id. at ¶ 6.) Close security inmates must be housed at close security prisons and exhibit one or more of the following characteristics: (1) violent crimes; (2) assaultive histories; (3) escape risk; (4) dangerousness; and (5) detainers for other serious crimes. (Id. at ¶ 7.) Close security inmates require heightened security and supervision, restricted movement, and may not leave the prison grounds. (Id.) Plaintiff is classified as a close security inmate, and TSP is a close security prison. (Id. at ¶¶ 9, 10; Pl.'s Dep., p. 37.)

         TSP houses approximately 1, 400 inmates, which is average in the GDC system, where close security prisons house between 1, 100 to 1, 800 inmates. (Hall Decl., ¶ 11.) TSP houses its inmates in one of eight buildings labeled A to H. (Id. at ¶ 12.) Buildings A to D are general population buildings containing two dorms within each building, eighty inmates per dorm, and individual cells within each dorm. (Id.) These buildings allow free movement within the dorm during the day, but inmates are locked in their cells at night. (Id.) At all times, inmates are restricted from moving to another dorm in the same building or another building by walls, fences, and physical barriers. (Id.) Correctional officers are posted to oversee each dorm. (Id.) During yard call or chow time, each dorm travels together accompanied by correctional officers, and must go through metal detector checkpoints. (Id.)

         Buildings E and F are known as tier or segregation dorms whereby inmates are placed in two or one-person cells and must be accompanied by a correctional officer every time they leave their cell. (Id. at ¶ 13.) The dorms of these buildings can house up to 280 inmates. (Id.) Inmates are placed in these buildings for either short or long periods of time because they committed disciplinary infractions, have violent histories, or are in protective custody. (Id.)

         Gangs, also referred to as “security threat groups” (“STG”), exist in every prison, but particularly so in close security prisons because gang membership increases the security level of an inmate. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Almost all STG inmates are classified as medium or close security. (Id. at ¶ 17.) Gang membership is impossible to prevent because it is personal, voluntary, and not publicly visible. (Id. at ¶ 15.) In addition to initial screening at the entry facility, TSP has an STG coordinator, usually a corrections officer, who is responsible for gathering information and screening inmates upon their entry into TSP by interviews and observations. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Through this process, inmates become validated STG members. (Id.) TSP continues to gather new information to determine changes in inmate affiliations, but given the subjective, non-public nature of gang affiliation, it is impossible to identify accurately all gang members at TSP. (Id.)

         Known gang members are housed with non-gang members to ensure there is not a high concentration of any one gang, or gang members generally, in any one dorm because high concentrations of one gang or gang members increase the likelihood for violent altercations. (Id. at ¶¶ 19-21.) The majority of gang violence occurs because of animosity between rival gang members. (Id. at ¶ 21.) TSP spreads validated STG inmates from different gangs among the buildings and dorms to reduce the likelihood of violence. (Id. at ¶ 22.)

         2. Security Measures at TSP

         Inmate-on-inmate violence is prevalent in all prisons and is even more prevalent in close security prisons because they house the most violent offenders. (Id. at ¶ 24.) In addition to using metal detectors during mass movements of dorms, keeping informed of STG-related activity, and housing gang members strategically, TSP prison officials conduct meetings to discuss security issues, incidents of violence, and weapons and contraband discoveries. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-28.) It is common practice for TSP officials to write incident and disciplinary reports when there are inmate assaults. (Id. at ¶ 29.) When gang-related activity and violence is observed, TSP officials make speeches informing inmates individually and dorm-wide that gang-related activity will not be tolerated. (Id.) To control the amount of contraband at TSP, officers perform shakedowns, or unannounced searches of inmates and their living spaces, to discover and confiscate weapons and other contraband. (Id. at ¶ 30.) Shakedowns occur at least once a month and possibly two to three times a week. (Id.) Additionally, inmates are searched based on tips or suspicion of contraband, and a specifically designated group of TSP officers, Correctional Emergency Response Team (“CERT”), gathers intelligence and searches for contraband. (Id.)

         Warden Philip Hall removed all desks in inmates' dorms to prevent inmates from making weapons out of them. (Pl.'s Dep., pp. 30-31.) Warden Hall and Deputy Warden McCloud ordered the fence around the prison painted orange to discourage inmates from breaking off pieces to use as weapons. (Id. at 134-35.) Also, TSP officials implement lockdowns to diffuse and address incidents of violence involving multiple inmates. (Hall Dec., ¶ 33.) Warden Hall increased the amount of yard time to allow inmates to exercise and decrease the symptoms of physical aggression. (Id. at ¶ 35.) TSP hired a recreational director and two coaches to assist in increasing the effectiveness of yard time. (Id.)

         In the event an inmate complains of a specific threat from an identifiable source, TSP officials will attempt to mitigate the threat or offer the inmate protective custody. (Id. at ¶ 36.) However, an inmate merely stating he feels unsafe with gang members is insufficient to warrant a housing change because gang members are present in all dorms. (Id. at ¶ 37.) Defendants are unaware of Plaintiff ever making a request for protective custody. (Id. at ¶ 38.)

         C. ...


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