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Landers v. Frakes

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

April 8, 2019

DYLAN ERIC LANDERS, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT FRAKES, DIANE SABATKA-RINE, J. BEATY, Research Representative; C. CONNELLY, Intelligence Representative; M. ROTHWELL, Classification Representative; and S. BRYANT, PsyD, Mental Health Representative; Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Filing No. 63.) For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted on Plaintiff's federal claims and denied with respect to Plaintiff's state law claims. The state law claims will be dismissed without prejudice pursuant to the court's discretionary authority under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a prisoner currently confined at the Nebraska State Penitentiary (“NSP”), filed this action seeking monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Scott Frakes, Director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (“NDCS”); Diane Sabatka-Rine, Deputy Director of Operations of NDCS; and members of the Central Office Multi-Disciplinary Review Team (hereinafter “Review Team members”)[1]: J. Beaty, Research Representative; C. Connelly, Intelligence Representative; M. Rothwell, Classification Representative; and S. Bryant, PsyD, Mental Health Representative. (Filing No. 1; Filing No. 24; Filing No. 28.)[2] Plaintiff sued Defendants in their official and individual capacities.[3]

         Plaintiff alleges that he has been confined repeatedly in segregation under conditions that violate his rights to due process and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (Filing No. 1; Filing No. 28.) He alleges that the individual Defendants have been involved in the decisions and review processes concerning Plaintiff's prolonged confinement in segregation. (Filing No. 1; Filing No. 28.) Plaintiff also claims that Defendants' actions violated various state statutes. (Filing No. 1; Filing No. 28.)

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks an injunction requiring Frakes and Sabatka-Rine to: (1) release him from segregation and place him in General Population; (2) cease all placements of Plaintiff in any form of “alternative housing” more restrictive than General Population; and (3) cease all restrictions that deprive Plaintiff of privileges which he has not specifically abused “as stated in L.B. 598.” (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 25.) Additionally, Plaintiff seeks an injunction against the members of the Review Team to cease “being ‘rubber stamps' and approving segregational classifications when little or no factual evidence exists.” (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 27.) Plaintiff also asks the court to declare that his segregation under the conditions alleged and the “sham reviews” provided him violate his rights under the 5th, 8th, and 14th Amendments and that Frakes “has attempted to harm Plaintiff by holding him in prolonged segregation after acknowledging the harmful affects [sic] and very counterproductive results of it to local news outlets.” (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 26.) Finally, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Filing No. 28 at CM/ECF pp. 1-2.)

         Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment (filing no. 63) on November 5, 2018. In support of their Motion, Defendants filed a Brief (filing no. 64) and an Index of Exhibits (filing no. 65).[4] Plaintiff filed a “Statement of Facts in Opposition to Defendants' Summary Judgment” (filing no. 74) and an “Affidavit and Declaration in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment” (filing no. 75). Defendants did not file a reply. The matter is fully submitted and ready for disposition.[5]

         II. RELEVANT UNDISPUTED MATERIAL FACTS[6] Overview of NDCS Restrictive Housing

         1. Restrictive housing within the NDCS is for individuals who demonstrate high risk behavior during their incarceration which requires them to be separated from the general population for the safety of the inmate, others, and the security of the institution. Restrictive housing serves a legitimate purpose when utilized appropriately for risk assessment and mitigation with the goal of returning individuals to less restrictive settings as soon as it is safe to do so. (Filing No. 65-8 at CM/ECF p. 3.)

         2. Restrictive housing shall be used in the least restrictive manner possible, consistent with institutional safety and security. When restrictive housing is used, the purpose shall be two-fold: short-term risk assessment and longer-term risk/needs intervention. Short-term restrictive housing, or Immediate Segregation, provides time to assess the risk the individual poses to safety and security. The guiding focus of Longer-Term Restrictive Housing (“LTRH”) shall be on individualized goal planning, behavior change, and treatment that will facilitate the inmate's capacity to live successfully in general population and return successfully to the community. (Filing No. 65-2 at CM/ECF p. 5, Section II.A (NDCS Administrative Regulation, Restrictive Housing, No. 210.01 (effective July 1, 2016, last revised June 30, 2017)).)

         3. Immediate Segregation is a short-term restrictive housing assignment of not more than thirty days in response to behavior that creates a risk to the inmate, others, or the security of the institution. Immediate Segregation is used to maintain safety and security while investigations are completed, risk and needs assessments are conducted, and appropriate housing is identified. (Filing No. 65-2 at CM/ECF p. 2.)

         4. As of July 2016, incidents that could result in placement on Immediate Segregation status are limited to the following:

1. A serious act of violent behavior (i.e., assaults or attempted assaults) directed at correctional staff and/or at other inmates.
2. A recent escape or attempted escape from secure custody.
3. Threats or actions of violence that are likely to destabilize the institutional environment to such a degree that the order and security of the facility is significantly threatened.
4. Active membership in a “security threat group” (prison gang), accompanied by a finding, based on specific and reliable information, that the inmate either has engaged in dangerous or threatening behavior directed by the security threat group or directs the dangerous or threatening behavior of others.
5. The incitement or threats to incite group disturbances in a correctional facility.
6. Inmates whose presence in the general population would create a significant risk of physical harm to staff, themselves and/or other inmates (a WRITTEN EXPLANATION OF THE EVENT AND DECISION MUST BE INCLUDED).

(Filing No. 65-2 at CM/ECF pp. 5-6, Section III.B.)[7]

         5. Administrative Confinement was a prior form of restrictive housing in which an inmate was removed from general population for an indefinite period of time to maintain order and security within the institution. It was not a form of disciplinary segregation. (Filing No. 65-1 at CM/ECF p. 2, ¶ 9 (Affidavit of Sabatka-Rine); Filing No. 65-3 at CM/ECF p. 2, Section II.E.1 (NDCS Administrative Regulation, Inmate Classification and Assignment-Special Management Inmates, No. 201.05 (effective March 1, 1980, last revised July 31, 2015)).)

         6. Legislative Bill 598 (“LB 598”) was proposed by the Nebraska Legislature during the 2015 session. LB 598, which became effective on August 30, 2015, established the least restrictive environment standard for restrictive housing. (Filing No. 65-1 at CM/ECF p. 3, ¶ 10; Filing No. 65-8 at CM/ECF p. 2 (NDCS 2017 Restrictive Housing Annual Report).)

         7. As required by LB 598, NDCS formally promulgated its restrictive housing rules and regulations, effective July 1, 2016, to establish the least restrictive environment standard for all restrictive housing placements. This standard requires that inmates in restrictive housing be housed in the least restrictive environment compatible with the safety of the inmate, others, and institutional security. (Filing No. 65-1 at CM/ECF p. 3, ¶ 11; Filing No. 65-8 at CM/ECF pp. 2-4.)

         8. The restrictive housing reforms implemented within NDCS since 2015 have fundamentally changed the way restrictive housing operates. The focus today is on using restrictive housing to manage risk and not as punishment. (Filing No. 65-8 at CM/ECF p. 3.)

         9. After July 1, 2016, there are two categories of restrictive housing within NDCS:

a. Immediate Segregation (IS) - A short-term restrictive housing assignment of not more than 30 days in response to behavior that creates a risk to the inmate, others, or the security of the institution. IS is used to maintain safety and security while investigations are completed, risk and needs assessments are conducted, and/or appropriate housing is identified.
b. Longer-Term Restrictive Housing (LTRH) - A classification-based restrictive housing assignment of more than 30 days. LTRH is used as a behavior management intervention for inmates whose behavior continues to pose a risk to the safety of themselves or others and includes inmate participation in the development of a plan for transition back to general population or mission specific housing.

(Filing No. 65-1 at CM/ECF p. 4, ¶ 12; Filing No. 65-7 at CM/ECF p. 4 (NDCS 2018 Restrictive Housing Annual Report); Filing No. 65-8 at CM/ECF p. 4.)

         Overview of Longer-Term Restrictive Housing (“LTRH”)

         10. LTRH is used as a behavior management intervention for inmates whose behavior continues to pose a risk to the safety of themselves or others and includes inmate participation in the development of a plan for transition back to general population or mission-specific housing. (Filing No. 65-2 at CM/ECF p. 3.)

         11. LTRH shall be used when inmates need more intensive supervision and intervention before promotion to an appropriate non-restrictive housing assignment. LTRH is a targeted individualized intervention with a primary emphasis on pro-social behavior, interactions with others, life-view change, incentives for positive change, and successful transition to lower levels of security. Consideration at all levels of review must be given to the mental health needs of the individual. (Filing No. 65-2 at CM/ECF p. 8, Section IV.A.)

         12. When it comes to risk assessment and management, there is no standard length of time that can be set to fully address an inmate's needs and mitigate the risk an inmate poses to the safety of himself/herself or others. (Filing No. 65-7 at CM/ECF p. 16.)

         13. Each inmate in LTRH has a Behavior/ Programming Plan that shall be reviewed during scheduled Restrictive Housing Status reviews. The Behavior/Programming Plan outlines to staff and inmates the steps and criteria for inmates to return to the general population or transition to another form of non-restrictive housing. It includes an incentive-based system that encourages pro-social behavior and program engagement. (Filing No. 65-2 at CM/ECF p. 12, Section V.)

         14. Mental health services for LTRH inmates “shall be managed through a combination of requests for consultation made by the inmate or facility staff (in accordance with established procedures and protocols), and weekly cell-front visits by mental health providers.” (Filing No. 65-2 at CM/ECF p. 12, Section VI.A.)

         15. As of July 1, 2016, NDCS no longer places individuals in restrictive housing for disciplinary purposes but uses it to assess and mitigate the risk of those inmates who pose a significant threat to the safety of themselves, other individuals, or NDCS staff members. (Filing No. 65-7 at CM/ECF p. 4.)

         16. Inmates “are placed in restrictive housing in response to behavior that creates a risk to the inmate, others, or the security of the institution or as a result of a classification action. Restrictive housing inmates receive the following services and programs unless documented security and safety considerations dictate otherwise”:

1. Prescribed medication and access to health care by a qualified health care official.
2. Clothing that is not degrading.
3. Access to authorized personal items for use in their cells.
4. Substantially the same meals served to the general population.
5. The opportunity to shave and shower at least three times per week.
6. The issue and exchange of clothing, bedding and linen on the same basis as inmates in the general inmate population.
7. Access to laundry services on the same basis as inmates in the general inmate population.
8. Access to hair care services on substantially the same basis as inmates in the general inmate population.
9. The same opportunity to write and receive letters as is available to the ...

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