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Payne-Bey v. Price

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

November 14, 2014

CHERYL PRICE, et al., Defendants

Darrow Payne-Bey, Plaintiff, Pro se, Bessemer, AL.



Plaintiff, Darrow Payne-Bey, has filed an amended pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that rights, privileges, or immunities afforded him under the Constitution or laws of the United States have been abridged during his incarceration. (Doc. 12). The complaint names Warden Cheryl Price and Commissioner Kim Thomas as defendants and seeks equitable relief. In accordance with the usual practices of this court and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the complaint was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a preliminary report and recommendation. See McCarthy v. Bronson, 500 U.S. 136, 111 S.Ct. 1737, 114 L.Ed.2d 194 (1991).

I. Standard of Review

The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Pub. L. No. 104-134, § 804, 110 Stat. 1321, and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, requires courts to screen complaints filed by prisoners against officers or employees of governmental entities and to dismiss the complaint or any portion of the complaint that it finds frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Where practicable, a court may sua sponte dismiss a prisoner's complaint prior to service. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) .

A dismissal pursuant to § 1915A (b)(1) for failure to state a claim is governed by the same standards as dismissals for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215, 127 S.Ct. 910, 166 L.Ed.2d 798 (2007). To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, " a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotation omitted). A plaintiff must assert " more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not" suffice. Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Because " [p]ro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys[, ]" they are liberally construed. Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006).

II. Factual Allegations[1]

The plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the Alabama Department of Corrections and is currently incarcerated at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility. (Doc. 12 at 2). The plaintiff complains about the conditions of his confinement, most notably the adequacy of the law library and the lack of special accommodations and programs for inmates over the age of fifty. (Doc. 12).

The plaintiff alleges Warden Price reconfigured the law library in August 2011. Prior to this change, there had been one law library for the general population; the reconfiguration resulted in the creation of two smaller libraries. (Doc. 12 at 3). The plaintiff states that each law library contains only two computers, two typewriters, one table, and space to seat two additional inmates. (Id.). Defendant Price " seized" all books from the original law library and reduced the seating space from sixteen to six. (Id.). Although the plaintiff has asked Price to provide the library with updates for the computers, as well as " relevant state and federal statutes and rules, " basic treaties on habeas corpus and civil rights, criminal law updates, and more tables and chairs, Price responded that there was no funding for such items. (Id. at 3-4).

The new law libraries do not have adequate ventilation, exposing plaintiff to extreme heat in the summer and extreme cold in the winter. (Doc. 12 at 4). The plaintiff asserts he has been deprived of meaningful access to basic research tools, space, and adequate ventilation to prepare his legal pleadings. (Id.). The plaintiff has complained to both defendant Price and defendant Thomas, but they have failed to correct the problem. (Id.).

The plaintiff asserts that Defendant Thomas, as Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, is responsible for assuring that the prisons receive adequate funding and are in compliance with standard operating procedures. (Doc. 12 at 4). Not only has Thomas failed to ensure that Defendant Price is provided with adequate funding for the law library, but Thomas stopped the program which had provided training to inmate law clerks. (Id. at 5). The plaintiff concedes that an inmate law clerk is still assigned to each law library in Donaldson but complains that these clerks no longer receive the training they once did and are not able to provide meaningful help. (Id.). This frustrates the plaintiff. (Id.).

With regard to the conditions of confinement for prisoners aged fifty and older, the plaintiff asserts that in February of 2013, defendant Price established two " geriatric dorms" for men aged fifty years and older. (Doc. 12 at 6). According to the plaintiff, there are 130 men in O-dorm and 126 men in K dorm. (Id.). Because of their ages, many of these inmates are on chronic care for age-related conditions.[2] (Id.). Each dorm contains 4 toilets and a five foot long urinal, but only one toilet has hand rails. (Doc. 12 at 7). There are no support rails in the shower or sink areas, and only one sink is outfitted for wheelchair access. (Id.). These dorms are furthest from the infirmary, gym, kitchen, and law library, and when there are heavy rains, the inmates must walk through deep puddles. (Id.). The plaintiff does not believe the exercise equipment is safe for this group of inmates and complains that relevant activities and reentry programs targeted for this age group are not provided. (Id. ...

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