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Kimble v. Jenkins

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

June 11, 2019

WILLIAM KIMBLE, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
JULIE JENKINS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Frank D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on initial review of the Complaint, (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 7).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff filed this civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 while incarcerated at the Marion Correctional Institution. (Doc. No. 1). He names as Defendants the following Marion C.I. employees: Correctional Program III Julie Jenkins, Correctional Program II G. Swink, and Assistant Superintendent of Programs David Cothron.

         Construing the Complaint liberally and accepting it as true, Plaintiff was told by a dentist in October and December 2018 that he needs to floss on a regular basis. Defendants deprived him of “decent” conditions of confinement by refusing to allow him to purchase dental floss since he arrived at Marion C.I. on March 2, 2018. (Doc. No. 1 at 4). Plaintiff is not provided adequate floss by prison officials and he has not been given any legitimate notice or reason for the refusal. As a result, he is unable to floss after each meal and can only floss once each evening. Defendants Jenkins and Swink are not allowing Plaintiff to purchase floss from the canteen because other inmates may use floss to make fishing lines to pass items from cell to cell and because floss containers are not see-through. As a result, inmates are only given seven to nine inches of floss at a time which is insufficient. Officers hand out floss without washing their hands which is unsanitary and places Plaintiff at risk of being exposed to harmful bacteria, the flu, and the common cold and could result in blood poisoning.

         The dental floss policy is discriminatory and deprives Plaintiff of equal protection of the law. Jenkins and Swink treat some inmates differently than others without a legitimate reason. Plaintiff needs to have floss in his possession at all times to prevent gum swelling and bleeding. Plaintiff has had toothaches and headaches and bleeding gums could place Plaintiff at a higher risk of developing heart disease later in life. At the time Plaintiff filed the Complaint there had not been any dental floss on the unit for several weeks.

         Plaintiff requests compensatory and punitive damages.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must review the Complaint to determine whether it is subject to dismissal on the grounds that it is “(i) frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). In its frivolity review, a court must determine whether the Complaint raises an indisputably meritless legal theory or is founded upon clearly baseless factual contentions, such as fantastic or delusional scenarios. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim “unless ‘after accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and drawing all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor, it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim entitling him to relief.'” Veney v. Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999)).

         A pro se complaint must be construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see also Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738 (4th Cir. 2009) (“Liberal construction of the pleadings is particularly appropriate where … there is a pro se complaint raising civil rights issues.”). However, the liberal construction requirement will not permit a district court to ignore a clear failure to allege facts in his complaint which set forth a claim that is cognizable under federal law. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990). A pro se complaint must still contain sufficient facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level” and “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (the Twombly plausibility standard applies to all federal civil complaints including those filed under § 1983). This “plausibility standard requires a plaintiff to demonstrate more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). He must articulate facts that, when accepted as true, demonstrate he has stated a claim entitling him to relief. Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         (1) Conditions of Confinement

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits punishments that “involve the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976) (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). “It not only outlaws excessive sentences but also protects inmates from inhumane treatment and conditions while imprisoned.” Williams v. Benjamin, 77 F.3d 756, 761 (4th Cir. 1996). The Constitution “does not mandate comfortable prisons, … but neither does it permit inhumane ones.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981)). Thus, prison official must provide sentenced prisoners with adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, and “take reasonable measures to guarantee the[ir] safety….” Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984); see Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832-34. Inmates' claims that prison officials disregarded specific known risks to their health or safety are analyzed under the deliberate indifference standard of the Eighth Amendment. See Pressly v. Hutto, 816 F.2d 977, 979 (4th Cir.1987). To establish the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment, a prisoner must prove two elements: (1) “the deprivation of [a] basic human need was objectively sufficiently serious, ” and (2) “subjectively the officials act[ed] with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Shakka v. Smith, 71 F.3d 162, 166 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d 1375, 1379 (4th Cir. 1993) (quotation omitted).

         To establish a violation of the Eighth Amendment in the context of a challenge to conditions of confinement, an inmate must allege (1) a “sufficiently serious” deprivation under an objective standard and (2) that prison officials acted with “deliberate indifference” to the inmate's health and safety under a subjective standard. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297-99 (1991). A sufficiently serious deprivation occurs when “a prison official's act or omission ... ...


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