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Turner v. Coupe

United States District Court, D. Delaware

October 24, 2014

ORIN TURNER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER COUPE, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

GREGORY M. SLEET, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Orin Turner ("Turner"), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC"), Smyrna, Delaware, filed this lawsuit on February 28, 2014 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] (D.I. 3.) He appears pro se and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.I. 5, 7.) The court dismissed the original complaint and gave Turner leave to amend. (D.I. 10). The court proceeds to review and screen the amended complaint filed on July 17, 2014. (D.I. 11).

I. BACKGROUND

In July of 2013, Turner was moved to the D/East Building, a Medium-High Security Unit ("MEW"). Upon his arrival, he encountered the defendant Sgt. Dome ("Dome") who advised Turner that he would not be there long because he did not want trouble in his building. According to Turner, Iman Anas placed him on the list to attend religion classes Monday through Thursday, but Turner was only allowed to attend Friday prayers. Turner attended four classes from July 2013 to September 24, 2013, not counting Friday Jummah services or Saturday Taleem services. Turner verified that he was on the list but Dome told him that he was not. Turner spoke to Lt. Trader ("Trader") and the defendant Staff Lt. Endures ("Endures"), both of whom told him they would look into the matter. Turner wrote to the defendant Captain Burton ("Burton") and explained that Dome was refusing to allow him to attend religion classes. Burton also told Turner he would look into the matter. Dome then told Turner that, since he "liked to talk, " Turner would never go to class while he was the sergeant of the D/East Building. Turner then wrote to Endures and requested a transfer to another building or to the other side of D/East. (D.I. 11 at 4-6.)

Turner alleges that the D/East Building is roach infested. Upon his transfer to the building, Turner was provided two cardboard boxes to hold his personal items. He kept his clothing in one box and food items in the other box. Roaches nested in the boxes and hatched babies. Turners stopped using the boxes and began using plastic bags. Turner alleges that one evening he awakened just before a roach crawled into his ear. Turner submitted a grievance and it was denied. Later, when Scott ("Scott") and Boon ("Boon") inspected the building, Boon told Turner that the grievance should not have been denied and that he would take the matter to Major Brennan ("Brennan"). Turner heard nothing. ( Id. at 7-8).

Turner alleges that while he was housed in D/East Building, the defendant Counselor Scott-Knight ("Knight") denied him jobs and education. Turner had been classified to school, programs, and jobs as part of his treatment assessment by the classification staff. Turner advised Knight that he was being harassed by Dome, complained that he had yet to start programming or receive a job, and requested a transfer from the prison. Turner alleges that Knight did not submit his name for the new cycle of programs or school. When he again complained to Knight, she told him there was nothing she could do about it. Turner wrote to head counselor Milborne ("Milborne") and submitted a grievance because he was treated differently from other inmates who were classified for work. ( Id. at 6-7).

After Turner spoke to Knight and requested a transfer and, after writing to Internal Affairs, Milborne, and the defendants Major Carrothers ("Carrothers"), Enduras, and Burton, he was told by Knight that she would see him in March 2014 for his classification. Turner then accused Knight of some sort of relationship with Dome and believed that Knight was helping or conspiring with Dome. That same morning, Turner spoke with Burton after he left Knight's office, and he saw Dome go into the counselor's office to speak to Knight. When Dome returned, Burton asked him what was the problem and he replied that he did not like Turner and Turner responded in kind. That afternoon while in the yard, Dome made disparaging comments to Turner. Turner was called into the building and was told by Dome to pack his bag, that he was "out of his building, " and to go lock in. Turner was never moved. On September 3, 2013, he filed a complaint for harassment. ( Id. at 8-10).

Turner alleges that Dome began to verbally assault him after he filed his September 11, 2013 formal complaint to the defendant Delaware Department of Correction ("DOC") Commissioner Coupe ("Coupe"), wherein he complained of issues with roaches, jobs, educations, programs, and he requested a transfer from the VCC. Turner also made a formal complaint to the defendant Warden Pierce ("Pierce") regarding the unfair treatment he had received. Turner told Pierce that he was at his wits end with Dome and indicated that he had met with Burton regarding the problem, but that it was getting worse. On September 24, 2013, the defendant C/O Torres ("Torres") told Turner to pack his bags, and he was moved to the Security Housing Unit ("SHU"). Turner had no write-ups or major infractions and questioned Torres about the move. Torres told Turner the reason for the move was the four-page letter Turner had written to the Commissioner's office. ( Id. at 9-10.)

Turner wrote to the defendants counselor McMahon ("McMahon") and Pierce on September 25, 2013, and asked why he had been transferred to SHU. McMahon advised Turner that the warden could house him wherever he chose. Turner also wrote to the defendants Carrothers, Deputy Warden Scarobrough ("Scarobrough"), Lt. Daum ("Daum"), and St. Lt. Simon ("Simon"), to find out why he was transferred to SHU. After receiving no answers, Turner submitted a grievance concerning his transfer to SHU. ( Id. at ex. I.) Next, he wrote to Bureau of Prisons ("BOP) Bureau Chief Perry Phelps ("Phelps") and asked him to check his status because he was now housed in SHU. Phelps responded and advised Turner that he had a classification of fifteen points, medium housing.[2] ( Id. at ex. C.) Turner then wrote to Pierce on October 27, 2013 and included the memo from Phelps and asked why he remained in SHU when he had only fifteen points which warranted a medium-high security status. He received no answer. ( Id. at 2, 11.)

On October 29, 2013, Turner was advised by the defendant Captain Rispoli ("Rispoli") that he had been housed in SHU by the warden because Turner had "to learn a lesson." Turner wrote to the defendant Deputy Warden Parks ("Parks") and submitted another grievance for retaliation. ( Id. ex. I.) Turner wrote to Coupe on October 31, 2013, complained of the transfer to SHU, and asked him to look into the matter. He again wrote to Coupe on November 14, 2013, and asked Coupe to transfer him from the VCC. Coupe referred Turner to the warden. ( Id. at 12.)

Turner submitted a grievance on November 17, 2013 concerning the psychological effect his housing assignment was having on him. ( Id. at ex. I.) He also spoke to Burton who told Turner that the warden had Turner transferred to SHU because of the letter he had written to Coupe when Turner was housed in D Building. Turner wrote to Brennan and to Carroll Powell ("Powell") in support services and asked for help in obtaining an interstate compact. In addition, he spoke to the defendant Staff Lt. Reynolds ("Reynolds") who informed Turner that the warden did not like him, that the warden had transferred Turner to SHU for the letter he had written and said, "I told you to put your pen down." ( Id. )

Turner wrote to Carrothers on November 27, 2013 regarding his transfer to SHU due to retaliation and violation of his right to due process. Turner sent a letter on January 12, 2014 to the BOP complaining of his transfer to SHU and he spoke to Reynolds on March 21, 2014, who advised him that Pierce had placed Turner in SHU. On April 23, 2014 Reynolds told Turner that he remained on the SHU list and that it would take two years before he was transferred from SHU. Reynolds told Turner that he "should not have pissed Warden Pierce off so when he gives the OK then you will leave." On June 2, 2014, Turner wrote to Phelps and asked why he remained on the SHU list and why it would take two years to be transferred from SHU. ( Id. at 12-13; ex. I.) Finally, Turner alleges that his phone numbers do not work and his mail was opened in retaliation for the letter and the grievances he submitted. ( Id. at 13-14.) Turner seeks compensatory damages.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b) if "the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) ( in forma pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (prisoner actions brought with respect to prison conditions). The court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because Turner proceeds pro se, ...


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