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Inmates v. Worcester County Jail and House of Correction

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 26, 2016

WORCESTER INMATES, Plaintiffs,
v.
WORCESTER COUNTY JAIL AND HOUSE OF CORRECTION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NATHANIEL M. GORTON, District Judge.

I. Background

Before the Court is the skeletal one-page letter/Complaint (Docket No. 1) jointly filed by six inmates at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction ("WCHC") in West Boylston, Massachusetts.[1] The plaintiffs complain about various adverse conditions of confinement at WCHC and allege that they are subject to cruel and unusual punishment. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that the WCHC is an old facility and should not remain open. They contend that they suffer from a cold winter environment throughout the jail and particularly in their cells, which are not well-insulated. Further, plaintiffs complain that there are rats and mice all over WCHC, that they are subject to excessive sanctions, and that there is overpricing of canteen items. Finally, they contend that their access to legal assistance and to copy equipment is limited and insufficient.

As relief, plaintiffs seek to have the court monitor the conditions of confinement and permit them to seek redress from the Worcester courts with legal aid from WCHC. They also seek legal help from the court system. Further, they seek an order prohibiting retaliation. Finally, they appear to request the imposition of harsh penalties against WCHC for violation of inmates' rights at WCHC.

None of the plaintiffs paid the filing and administrative fees or filed an application for a waiver of the Court fees.

II. Discussion

A. It is Unclear Whether Plaintiffs Intended to File Suit in This Court

As a threshold matter, it is unclear whether the plaintiffs intended to file a civil Complaint in this Court. First, the envelop containing the plaintiffs' Complaint was addressed to the "BMC" (Boston Municipal Court), but listed this Court's street address. Second, based on the allegations in the Complaint (in which the plaintiffs seek to have redress to the Worcester courts), it is unclear whether plaintiffs intended to obtain relief from the state court system rather than this Court.

In light of this uncertainty, plaintiffs will be required to affirm their intent to pursue a civil action in this Court, in accordance with the parameters set forth herein.

B. Screening of the Complaint

On the presumption that the plaintiffs intended to file suit in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (the vehicle for asserting constitutional violations such as Eighth Amendment violations), the Complaint is subject to preliminary screening because the plaintiffs are prisoners.[2] The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") contains several provisions which grant this Court the authority to screen and dismiss prisoner complaints. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (proceedings in forma pauperis ); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (screening of suits against governmental officers and entities).

As noted above, plaintiffs are not proceeding in forma pauperis at this time, and thus the Court's screening is conducted only under the auspices of § 1915A. Section 1915A authorizes the Court to review prisoner complaints in civil actions in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity, or officers or employees of a governmental entity, and to dismiss the action regardless of whether or not the plaintiff has paid the filing fee, if the complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or fact, fails to state a claim, or seeks relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

In conducting the preliminary screening, the plaintiffs' Complaint is construed generously. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Instituto de Educ, Universal Corp. v. U.S. Dep't of Educ., 209 F.3d 18, 23 (1st Cir. 2000). Even under a generous reading, however, this action is subject to dismissal for the reasons set forth below.

C. The Complaint is Unsigned

Although the names of the individual plaintiffs are listed at the bottom of the Complaint, it does not appear that any of the plaintiffs has signed the Complaint, as required by Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under Rule 11, "[a]n unsigned paper shall be stricken unless omission of the signature is corrected promptly after being called to the attention of the attorney or party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(a). Thus, the Complaint is subject to dismissal on this basis; however, this Court will ...


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