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Cryer v. Spencer

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 12, 2014

DEREK SINCERE BLACK WOLF CRYER, Plaintiff,
v.
LUIS SPENCER, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

DENISE J. CASPER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Derek Sincere Black Wolf Cryer ("Cryer"), an inmate at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center ("SBCC") in Massachusetts, brings this action against Luis Spencer, former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Correction; Thomas Dickhaut, former Superintendent of the SBCC; and Bruce Gelb, the SBCC's superintendent (collectively, "Defendants") seeking injunctive and declaratory relief for his claims that the Defendants violated his state and federal Constitutional rights.

Having held a bench trial over the course of three days between March 24, 2014 and May 20, 2014 as to the remaining claims in complaint, the Court now issues its findings of facts and conclusions of law.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On April 8, 2011, Cryer filed a complaint alleging violations of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, Articles 1 and 26 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). D. 1. Cryer also alleged that the Defendants have violated Mass. Gen. L. c. 124, § 1(q), c. 30A, c. 111 §§2, 5, 20, 21, and c. 125, § 22, as well as 105 C.M.R. § 450.320, and sought immediate and preliminary injunctive relief as well as a declaratory judgment that he be given single cell status, that no inmate be placed in his cell and that he not be placed in any dormitory housing unit. D. 1. Cryer moved for preliminary injunctive relief at the same time (as alleged in the body of the complaint). D. 1. On April 27, 2011, the Court denied Cryer=s request for injunctive relief without prejudice to renew after the Defendants had filed a responsive pleading or upon a motion filed in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 65. D. 4 at 5. After the Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, D. 14, Cryer again sought a preliminary injunction. D. 21, 27. The Court allowed in part and denied in part the motion to dismiss and denied the renewed motion for a preliminary injunction. D. 30. That order dismissed Cryer's equal protection claim, his ADA claim and his claims arising under state statutory and regulatory law. D. 30. The Court subsequently denied Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims arising under federal and state constitutional law, D. 93, and held a bench trial on this matter, D. 97, 98, 106.

III. FINDINGS OF FACT

In light of the evidence presented to the Court, the Court makes the following findings of fact:

A. The Parties and Witnesses

1. Cryer is an inmate currently lawfully incarcerated at SBCC, a facility of the Department of Correction, located in Shirley, Massachusetts. D. 1 at ¶ 1.

2. At all relevant times, Luis Spencer was the Commissioner of the Department of Correction, and is named as a defendant. Id. at ¶2. named as a defendant. Id. at ¶ 3.

4. Bruce Gelb is the Superintendent of SBCC, who acts as the chief administrative officer of the correctional facility. Trial Testimony of Bruce Gelb, Day 2, 40:13.[1] He has been Superintendent of SBCC since June 2012. Id. at Day 2, 40:21.

5. There are two deputy superintendents at SBCC: the Deputy Superintendent of Operations and the Deputy Superintendent of Classification and Programs, each of whom directly report to the Superintendent. Trial Testimony of Bruce Gelb, Day 2, 42:11-15.

6. Michael Rodrigues is the Deputy Superintendent of Classification and Programs at SBCC, and has served in this capacity since January 2009. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 1, 105:25; Trial Testimony of Bruce Gelb, Day 2, 41:13-15. The responsibilities of this position include the oversight of inmate programs, housing, activities, religious services, and provision of medical and mental health services. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 1, 106:3-7.

7. Dr. Johanna Shaw is a psychiatrist employed by the Department of Correction's contract medical provider, Massachusetts Correctional Partners in Health ("MCPH"). Trial Testimony of Johanna Shaw, Day 1, 4:17-19.

8. The Department of Correction has a contract with the MCPH to provide for the mental health needs of inmates. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 1, 111:19-25. medical and mental health services to inmates at SBCC. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 1, 112:4-8.

10. Donald Hager is the Mental Health Director at SBCC. Trial Testimony of Bruce Gelb, Day 2, 48:13.

11. Employees of MPCH are not employees of the Department of Correction. Trial Testimony of Bruce Gelb, Day 2, 45:19-21.

B. SBCC Operations and Housing Policies

12. SBCC is a maximum-security correctional facility. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 1, 107:16-19.

13. In 2009, SBCC became a double-bunked facility. Trial Testimony of Bruce Gelb, Day 2, 56:5-8.

14. SBCC currently contains cells that are double-bunked, as well as cells that are single-bunked. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 2, 3:12-20.

15. Each general population housing unit at SBCC contains sixty-four (64) cells on two (2) tiers. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 2, 3:15-20.

16. Thirty out of the thirty-two cells in the bottom tier of each general population housing unit at SBCC are double-bunked cells and are equipped to house two inmates in each cell. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 2, 3:15-20. The remaining two cells on the bottom tier of each general population housing unit at SBCC are single-bunked, handicapaccessible cells. Id.

17. The thirty-two cells on the top tier of each general population housing unit at SBCC are single-bunked cells, i.e., they are equipped to house one inmate in each cell. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 2, 3:15-20.

18. Although inmates newly assigned to a general population housing unit are housed in a double-bunked cell in the bottom tier of that unit, they can move up to an upper tier singlebunked cell based on good behavior and seniority. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 2, 6:11-7:2.

19. Inmates in single cells on the top tier who have received a disciplinary report or do not comply with SBCC rules may be removed from the top tier and be placed in a double-cell on the bottom tier. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 2, 25:14-17.

20. In addition to those inmates who are housed in single cells because of seniority and positive institutional adjustment, SBCC has designated certain inmates to be on "single cell status" or on the "single cell list, " so that they are housed in single cells. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 2, 7:18-8:5. These are "exceptions" to housing assignments for "extreme circumstances, or if medical or mental health deem it necessary." Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 2, 7:18-20.

21. Inmates who are housed in a single cell generally because of a mental health or medical condition, as opposed to those who are housed in a single cell based on seniority and positive institutional adjustment, are considered to be on "single cell status." Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 1, 116:8-17.

22. Unlike those inmates who are housed in single cells due to seniority and positive institutional adjustment, inmates on "single cell status" are not subject to double bunking at SBCC and do not lose their single cells when removed from the housing unit due to disciplinary action. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 2, 25:4-9.

23. An inmate's designation as "single cell status" at SBCC does not necessarily follow an inmate if he transfers to another facility. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 2, 47:3-11. Rather, an inmate who was designated as being on "single cell status" at one correctional facility who is transferred to another correctional facility would likely have that status reevaluated by staff at the new facility. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 2, 47:8.

24. "Single cell status" is now only provided in rare instances and only when deemed necessary for the safe operation of SBCC. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 2, 7:18-8:5.

25. If an inmate at SBCC requests a single cell for mental health reasons, Deputy Superintendent Rodrigues would refer the request to mental health staff for their input. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 2:14:21-15:8.

26. If a mental health clinician concluded that an inmate required a single cell for mental health reasons, the mental health team would be consulted. If the mental health team recommended that an inmate should be in a single cell, it is likely that Deputy Superintendent Rodrigues would follow that recommendation. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 1, 124:14-17.

27. The responsibility for designating an inmate as being on "single cell status" is within the purview of Michael Rodrigues, SBCC's Deputy Superintendent of Classification and Programs and the assignment officers who report to him. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 1, 118:19-25, 124:7-9.

28. It is general practice at SBCC to follow the recommendations of the mental health department regarding housing assignments of inmates. Trial Testimony of Bruce Gelb, Day 2, 46:24-47:2.

29. Superintendent Gelb has never disregarded a recommendation from mental health staff for a housing assignment. Trial Testimony of Bruce Gelb, Day 2, 47:12-15.

30. Superintendent Gelb did not order Deputy Superintendent Rodrigues to ignore a recommendation from mental health staff regarding any housing assignment. Trial Testimony of Bruce Gelb, Day 2, 47:19-22.

31. Deputy Superintendent Rodrigues has not overruled a recommendation from mental health staff for an inmate to be housed in a single cell. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 1, 115:4-7.

32. In 2009, SBCC "underwent a mission change" and began the process of doublebunking so that offenders were expected to be assigned in two-person cells. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 1, 116:4-7. During this conversion, the SBCC conducted a review of a list of approximately 250 or so inmates who, prior to the conversion, were given single-cell status, some of whom were given this designation because of mental health reasons. Trial Testimony of Michael Rodrigues, Day 1, 116:18-117:1.

C. Cryer's Request to Remain on Single Cell Status

33. Cryer had been on the list of single cell status as "per Deputy Mendonsa, " who was Mr. Rodrigues's predecessor as Deputy Superintendent of Classification and Programs, but there was no other reason listed for this ...


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