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Parkell v. Coupe

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 19, 2018

ROBERT COUPE, etal., Defendants.

          Donald D. Parkell, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Ophelia Michelle Waters, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants.


          STARK, U.S. District Judge


         Plaintiff Donald D. Parkell ("Plaintiff), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC") in Smyrna, Delaware, proceeds pro se and has been granted in forma pauperis status. He filed this civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C, § 1983 claiming violations of his constitutional rights. (D.I. 3) The amended complaint is the operative pleading. (D.I. 19) Presently before the Court is the motion for summary judgment of Defendants Robert Coupe ("Coupe") and Phillip Morgan ("Morgan") (together "Defendants") and Plaintiffs opposition thereto. (D.I. 63, 64, 66, 67)


         The original complaint was screened and dismissed with prejudice on the grounds that some of Plaintiffs claims duplicated those the Court had already dismissed in another of Plaintiff s suits, and the remainder were frivolous. (J><?D.I. 3, 10, 11) Plaintiff appealed. (D.I. 12) Upon appeal, the Third Circuit vacated dismissal of Plaintiffs failure to protect and denial of medical care claims against Coupe and Morgan, and remanded the matter to give Plaintiff an opportunity to amend those claims. See Parkell v. Market!, 622 Fed.Appx. 136, 140-43 (3d Cir. July 27, 2015). Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on September 21, 2015. (D.I. 19)

         The Amended Complaint.

         The case proceeds on two claims: failure to protect and denial of medical care. Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution ("HRYCI") in Wilmington, Delaware and housed in its west-side from March 29, 2012 through January 31, 2014. Plaintiff alleges the west-side: (1) was overcrowded; (2) housed three inmates to a cell designed for one; (3) did not provide inmates adequate amenities, as they received fewer servings of food and razors than other prisoners; (4) did not have adequate telephones and shower stalls for the number of prisoners housed there; (5) required inmates to place then laundry in a single, communal laundry tub, which led to theft; and (6) limited exercise to a small, indoor concrete enclosure that 59 inmates housed on the west-side must share. Plaintiff alleges that the HRYCFs most violent and transgressive inmates are assigned to the west-side housing area. In addition, he alleges that pretrial detainees and nonviolent offenders are housed together regardless of status and without a risk assessment. Plaintiff alleges the conditions at the HRYCI resulted in him being assaulted on October 13, 2013, and that Defendants knew the conditions posed a risk of harm yet failed to protect him. (Id. at ¶¶ 23, 36, 38, 44, 83, 85, 86, 89-96)

         Following the assault, Plaintiff was taken to Christiana Hospital for treatment. While hospitalized, Plaintiff was held in four-point restraints. (Id. at ¶ 72) He alleges that his physician at Christiana Hospital prescribed him oxycodone but, when returned to HRYCI, medical personnel did not consider the medication ordered. (Id. at¶¶ 64, 65, 67-69) Instead, Plaintiff was given Tylenol with codeine. (Id. at ¶ 65) Plaintiff alleges that he was doubled over in pain during his entire stay at the HYRCI infirmary. (Id. at ¶ 69) Plaintiff alleges that HYRCI has a practice that requires the medical vendor to replace all orders of narcotics with non-narcotics for no medical rationale. (Id. at 66) He also alleges that he was prescribed Elavil to treat his pain, but it is a medication used to treat mental illness. (Id. at 75)

         Evidence of Record.

         According to Plaintiffs affidavit/declaration, the totality of the conditions on the west-side of HYRCI result in a "brutal gladiator type atmosphere [and] encourage[] gangs to develop in order for men to use desired amenities or to even eat sometimes. Any opposition to gang control to full unit dominance incurred an attack or intimidation." (D.I. 66 at 24-25)

         Defendants admit that: (1) all 59 men on tiers built for 20 men did not have to have tier access at the same time and an easy alternative is to split the tier recreation in half, with only ten out of the twenty cells unlocked at a time; (2) laundry bags were not issued to inmates and laundry was required to be placed in a large bin left on the tier all day, accessible to every man on the tier; (3) intake provided one pair of socks, two boxer shorts, two t-shirts, two uniforms, two sheets, one blanket, one washcloth, and one towel to new inmates; (4) sentenced inmates housed in the east-side of the institution and who commit class one infractions are required to live on the west-side for at least six months, in addition to any other punishments imposed by the hearing officer; (5) inmates on west-side tiers were forced to remain locked in their cells if there were staff shortages; (6) as a general practice, all inmates are locked in during code red times, however, some workers were not locked in, and it was documented on the count sheets; (7) inmates on the west-side are given the option to go to the yard with cement walls and floor, an area too small to hold 59 men, basketball is the only exercise available, and if an inmate did not wish to go to the concrete yard he was required to lock into his cell; and (8) two showers available for 59 men is not sufficient. (D.L 55 at 2-5)

         Defendants deny that: (1) phones were controlled completely by the inmates on each west-side tier, and that this arrangement caused many fights and assaults; (2) there was no risk assessment or compatibility considerations in place to determine housing assignments in units or individual cells; (3) 59 men on recreation at one time in tiers designed for 20 cause extremely high volume levels, create problems with sight lines for a tier officer, and cause men to often fight; (4) inmates were locked in their cells for some religious services until the service was either complete, or not let out of their cells until the following day; and (5) major disturbances occurred over telephones, televisions, and food services. (Id. at 2-6)

         Defendants state: (1) on occasion there were food shortages and substitutions were made if HRYCI ran out of food; (2) there were enough razors for anyone who wanted to shave and razors are given to inmates who ask for them; (3) cell assignment for prisoners on the east-side is designated by classification, not solely on availability of bed space; ...

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