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Sosa v. Massachusettes Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 2, 2019

CHE BLAKE SOSA, Plaintiff,
v.
MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          NATHANIEL M. GORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Che Blake Sosa, who is incarcerated at MCI Cedar Junction, commenced this lawsuit on October 24, 2018, alleging that he is being subjected to excessive force and prolonged solitary confinement. He further claims that he is not receiving adequate medical attention and accommodations for his disabilities. Sosa has also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, asking that this Court require the defendants to use waist chains instead of painful, knuckle-to-knuckle restraints behind his back when transporting him.

         The Court has already ordered that a summons issue as to the Massachusetts Department of Correction (“DOC”) and that it be served with the complaint and motion for a preliminary injunction. For the reasons stated below, the Court will order that summonses issue as to some of the individual defendants.

         I. Background

         Sosa brings this action against the DOC and 33 past and present DOC officials, correction officers, and medical providers. His typed complaint is 52 pages long. Sosa also filed over 300 pages of exhibits. The complaint is in three counts. Count One is a claim under 42 U.S.C. for violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth amendments. See Compl. ¶¶ 177-189. Count Two is a claim for violations of Article I of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. See id. ¶¶ 190-194. Count Three is a claim under Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq. (“the ADA”). See id. ¶¶ 195-215.

         The Court summarizes the complaint, assuming, for the limited purpose of this memorandum and order, the veracity of all well-pled factual allegations and construing them in favor of Sosa.

         Sosa has been convicted on multiple counts of aggravated rape and related offenses. He has been sentenced to over 95 years of incarceration. Sosa has been in the custody of the DOC since 2001, when he was a pretrial detainee. During that time, he was found guilty of several disciplinary infractions for which he was given time in the Department Disciplinary Unit (“the DDU”). Sosa has been housed in the DDU since June 6, 2003, and he is scheduled to remain there indefinitely. While in the DDU, Sosa is held in solitary confinement, spending 23 or 24 hours a day in his cell.

         Since childhood, Sosa has suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”) and antisocial personality disorder. The DOC has recognized that Sosa suffers from these conditions, and at some point, provided him effective psychotropic medication for ADHD. However, the psychotropic treatment has been discontinued despite its ameliorative effect. Sosa is also subject to sleep deprivation.

         Sosa has been suffering from severe degenerative bilateral join disease in his shoulders for over 20 years. Due to pain in his right shoulder that did not respond to a cortisone shot, Sosa underwent surgery in January 2005 for right shoulder impingement syndrome and osteoarthritis of the AC joint. Based on his shoulder condition, at some point, medical officials at MCI Cedar Junction prescribed for him a medical restriction from behind-the-back cuffing.

         On July 25, 2006, Sosa stabbed two guards in an attempt to obtain their cell keys so that he could get access to a racist inmate who had attacked him. The same day, the medical restriction prohibiting cuffing behind the back was discontinued for security reasons, and it has never been reinstated.

         Unprecedented security precautions concerning Sosa were also immediately implemented after the July 25, 2006 stabbing. Since that time, whenever Sosa leaves his cell, he is accompanied by at least six members of the MCI Cedar Junction tactical response team outfitted with helmets, stab-proof vest, elbow guards, shin guards, and a five-foot, one-inch-thick Plexiglas shield. Sosa is also cuffed everyday behind his back, knuckle to knuckle. Because of his shoulder injury, this purportedly causes him extreme agony and worsens his condition. At times, Sosa misses medical appointments or does not seek medical care because of the severity of the pain he experiences during these transfers. Sosa's multiple, informal complaints and formal grievances to reinstate the medical restriction of cuffing behind the back have been denied.

         Sosa's physical and mental condition, combined with the lack of treatment therefor and the conditions of confinement in the DDU, allegedly is causing him to deteriorate: “Mr. Sosa is caught in a cycle of irresponsibility by the defendants, i.e. an untreated mentally ill man with a painful physical injury, held in solitary, subjected to restraints that cause further agony and injury.” Compl. ¶ 73.

         II. Discussion

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, prisoner complaints in civil actions that seek redress from governmental entities or officers or employees of governmental entities are subject to a preliminary screening. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any claims that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). In conducting this review, the Court liberally construes Sosa's complaint because he is proceeding pro se. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). The Court also has examined the exhibits but only where Sosa has made a specific reference to an exhibit. Further, the Court considers only the content of an exhibit in conjunction with the corresponding allegation in the complaint.

         A. Claims under Title II of the ADA

          For ease of reference, the Court will group the defendants into two categories. The Court will refer to the DOC and all of the defendants who are or were employed by the DOC as “the DOC Defendants.”[1] The Court will refer to defendant Massachusetts Partnership for Correctional Healthcare, Inc. (“the MPCH”) and its employees, past or present, who are defendants in this action as “the MPCH Defendants.” The MPCH contracts with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to provide medical care to prisoners at DOC facilities, including MCI Cedar Junction.

         1. ADA Claims Against the DOC Defendants

         Title II of the ADA provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12132.

         The statute defines “public entity” to include “any State or local government” and “any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State . . . or local government.” 42 U.S.C. § 12131(1). An individual sued in his or her individual capacity is not liable under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. See Wiesman v. Hill, 629 F.Supp.2d 106, 112 (D. Mass. 2009). Therefore, ...


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