United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
CHARLES S. COODY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Antonio Jackson, an inmate incarcerated at the Ventress
Correctional Facility in Clayton, Alabama, files this pro
se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He challenges a
denial of access to courts and a failure to protect him from
dangerous conditions at the Institution. The case is pending
on Jackson's amended complaint filed against Gwendolyn
Givens, Gwendolyn Babers, Governor Kay Ivey, and Pamela
Harris. Jackson requests injunctive and
declaratory relief and âany other relief sought and/or
recommended.â Doc. 7 at 2-4.
review, the court concludes that dismissal of Jackson's
amended complaint prior to service of process is appropriate
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Denial of Access to Courts
complains he cannot complete research and study because the
law library lacks typewriters and legal supplies with which
to prepare legal work. The law library, Jackson claims, is
also not opened “the 20 hours required.” Doc. 7
state an access-to-courts claim, a prisoner must show that
“an actionable claim . . . which he desired to bring
has been lost or rejected, or that the presentation of such a
claim is currently being prevented.” Lewis v.
Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 356 (1996) (citing Bounds v.
Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977)). The Supreme Court
explained in Bounds that “[t]he fundamental
right of access to the courts requires prison authorities to
assist inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful
legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law
libraries or adequate legal assistance from persons trained
in the law.” Bounds, 430 U.S. at 838. However,
the prisoner's contentions of deprivation of access to
the courts must show actual prejudice or harm as a
“constitutional prerequisite.” Lewis,
518 U.S. at 351; see also Chandler v. Baird, 926
F.2d 1057, 1063 (11th Cir. 1991) (holding that “both
policy and the prevailing state of the law require an inmate
to articulate facts indicating some prejudice such as being
unable to do timely research on a legal problem or being
procedurally or substantively disadvantaged in the
prosecution of a cause of action”). Without a showing
that the lack of access frustrated efforts to pursue a
non-frivolous legal claim, an inmate has no standing to
challenge the policy or practice in question. Lewis,
518 U.S. at 352-54; Bass v. Singletary, 143 F.3d
1442, 1444 (11th Cir. 1998). Further, the right of access to
the courts does not extend to all legal claims, only to those
in which an inmate can demonstrate actual injury from an
inability to challenge specific non-frivolous legal claims
relating to the fact or condition of a prisoner's
confinement. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 355; see also
Wilson v. Blankenship, 163 F.3d 1284, 1290 (11th Cir.
contention he has been denied access to courts asserts no
facts reflecting that he was so hindered in his efforts to
pursue a non-frivolous legal claim to such a degree he
experienced adverse consequences or an actual injury from the
alleged deprivation. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 349. Because
Jackson's allegation regarding a denial of access to the
courts articulates no “actual injury” accruing to
him, this claim is due to be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. §
Failure to Protect
alleges he is always on guard from having to defend himself
from inmates possessing knives and from almost getting into
physical altercations because the dorms are overcrowded and
contain insufficient room in which to move around. Doc. 7 at
3. The court considers Jackson's amended complaint to
present a failure to protect claim based on alleged dangerous
conditions at Ventress.
prison officials have a duty to protect inmates from violence
by other prisoners, they are not the guarantors of a
prisoner's safety. Estate of Morgan v. Toombs Co.,
Ga., 400 F.3d 1313, 1321 (11th Cir. 2005). The Eighth
Amendment is violated only when a prisoner is incarcerated
under conditions which expose him to a “substantial
risk of serious harm” and only when prison officials
are “deliberately indifferent” to that risk.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994).
“[D]eliberate indifference describes a state of mind
more blameworthy than negligence” and, therefore,
ordinary lack of due care for a prisoner's interest or
safety will not support an Eighth Amendment claim.
Id. at 835. Prison officials cannot be liable under
the Eighth Amendment unless they know of and disregard an
excessive or substantial risk to inmate health or safety.
Id. at 837.
court is mindful that confrontations among inmates are common
in the prison setting as prisoners engage in an unending
struggle for position and power among the incarcerated.
Because “a risk of harm to some degree always exists by
the nature of it[ ] being a [prison], ” not every
condition rises to the level of an Eighth Amendment
violation. Purcell ex rel. Estate of Morgan v. Toombs
Cty., Ga., 400 F.3d 1313, 1323 (11th Cir. 2005);
Gullatte v. Potts, 654 F.2d 1007, 1012 (5th Cir.
1981) (holding that “the constitutional rights of
inmates are [not] violated every time a prisoner is injured.
It would not be reasonable to impose such an absolute and
clearly unworkable responsibility on prison
officials.”); see also Hudson v. Palmer, 468
U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984) (holding that “within [a
prison's] volatile ‘community,' prison
administrators are . . . under an obligation to take
reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the
inmates.”). Here, Jackson presents only a conclusory
allegation there is a general risk of harm present at
Ventress but alleges no facts which indicate he has been
exposed to or faced any serious risk of substantial harm
because of the conduct about which he complains, that he has
been involved in any altercations with other inmates, or that
he has notified Defendants or any other prison official of a
particular risk or fear of harm from another inmate or from
the condition about which he complains. Rather, Jackson
generally alleges Ventress as a whole is a dangerous
environment which is insufficient to state a plausible claim
that a risk of serious harm exists under the Eighth
Amendment. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp., v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 554, 570 (2007)) (holding that “a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.' A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.”). Even if Jackson effectively pled
exposure to a substantial risk of serious harm, he has
alleged no facts which suggest Defendants are aware of any
circumstances from which they may draw an inference he faces
danger from the challenged conditions and have deliberately
ignored the risk. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837.
extent Jackson claims overcrowding at Ventress creates a
security hazard, this claim, without more, is also
insufficient to state a claim of constitutional magnitude.
Overcrowding in prisons is not per se
unconstitutional, Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337,
348 (1981), and the occasional or isolated attack by one
prisoner on another does not necessarily demonstrate that
unconstitutional conditions exist inside the prison.
Morgan, 400 F.3d at 1320. And, as explained,
regarding the subjective component of an Eighth Amendment
claim, Jackson's conclusory allegation that Ventress is
overcrowded does not, by itself, show a culpable state of
mind by Defendants to disregard an excessive risk to inmate
health or safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Liability
cannot be imposed upon prison officials “solely because
of the presence of objectively inhumane prison
conditions.” Id. at 838. Rather, to be liable
under the Eighth Amendment, a defendant must know of and
disregard an excessive or substantial risk. Id.
Here, the allegations in Jackson's amended complaint
present no facts sufficient to establish either a substantial
risk of serious harm exists or that any defendant is aware of
and is deliberately disregarding an excessive risk to his
safety. Jackson's Eighth Amendment claim is, therefore,
due to be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).