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Higgins v. Clarke

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 19, 2016



HON. PAMELA PEPPER United States District Judge

The pro se plaintiff, Jerry Higgins, is currently incarcerated at the Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution, although the events alleged in his complaint occurred while he was a pretrial detainee at the Milwaukee County Jail. On August 20, 2014, Judge William C. Griesbach (the judge assigned to the case at that time) issued an order allowing the plaintiff to proceed on claims that the defendants denied him adequate food, a clean mattress, and recreation time in violation of the United States Constitution. Dkt. No. 7. On April 30, 2015, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 18), which was fully briefed as of August 12, 2015 (Dkt. Nos. 20, 35, 36). For the reasons stated in this decision, the court grants the defendants’ motion, and dismisses the case.


A. Parties

The plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the Milwaukee County Jail (the “Jail”) during the events alleged in his complaint. Dkt. No. 19 ¶¶2-3. He sued the following defendants: Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke (id. at ¶15); Deputy Inspector Kevin Nyklewicz (id. at ¶20); Lieutenant Julie Shanahan (id. at ¶26); and correctional officers James Ramsey-Guy, Travis Sykes, Troy Moore-Spicer[2], and Darren Reaves (id. at ¶¶46, 55, 63, 72).

B. The Plaintiff’s Allegations

The plaintiff states in his sworn complaint that from June 13, 2014, through June 24, 2014, the defendants locked him in his cell twenty-four hours a day and did not allow him to leave his cell, not even to eat or shower. Dkt. No. 1 at 3. As a result, he states that he lost eight pounds. Id. He also claims that his failure to shower caused him to scratch his body to the point of bleeding. Id. In addition, the plaintiff states that he had “a dirty & ripped mattress which cause[d] him to break out more.” Id. at 5. Finally, he says “they” tried to feed him nutraloaf “some days” that was “sometimes cold or not completely cooked, ” and argues that “they” did this even though nutraloaf was banned from the House of Correction. Id.; Dkt. No. 35 at 2.

The plaintiff states that he filed grievances and complained to “numerous staff (such as CO Sykes, Moore, Ramsey, Reeves, Spicer, Lt. [sic] Just to name a few) . . . .” Dkt. No. 1 at 3-4. He also states that “staff” wouldn’t give him a new mattress even though they could see that the mattress was dirty and damaged. Id. at 5.

C. The Defendants’ Response to the Plaintiff’s Allegations

The defendants state that the plaintiff never personally met with, or voiced any concerns about the conditions of his confinement to, Clarke or Nyklewicz. They assert that neither of those defendants made any decisions about the conditions of the plaintiff’s confinement, including his use of recreation time, his diet, or the assignment of his mattress. Dkt. No. 19 at ¶¶ 17, 18, 24, 25. In addition, the defendants state that at no time did the plaintiff discuss his concerns about his diet, lack of recreation time, or mattress with Shanahan, Ramsey-Guy, Sykes, Moore-Spicer or Reaves. Id. at ¶¶ 35, 38, 49, 50, 51, 57, 58, 59, 66, 67, 71, 75, 76, 80. All of the defendants indicate that they did not become aware of the plaintiff’s concerns until they received a copy of his complaint in September 2014. See id. at ¶¶37, 40, 49, 50, 51, 57, 58, 59, 66, 67, 75, 76.

The defendants explain that the plaintiff was confined at the Jail as a pretrial detainee from October 22, 2013, until August 4, 2014. Id. ¶81. Within that time, the plaintiff was on disciplinary status (i.e., in segregation) from June 12, 2014 until July 9, 2014, due to his failure to follow Jail rules. Id. ¶82.

The cell in which the plaintiff stayed while on disciplinary status was approximately 13.5 feet x 6 feet x 7 feet, 10 inches high, and was equipped with a sink that provided hot and cold water. Id. ¶¶84, 85. Inmates on disciplinary status were allowed to keep toiletries, including bar soap and two towels, in their cells. Id. ¶¶95, 96. The Jail inspected inmate mattresses regularly, and they repaired or replaced any damaged or unsanitary mattresses. Id. ¶¶104, 105.

Inmates on disciplinary status were allowed one hour out of their cell per day for recreation time, although they could refuse this time if they so choose. Id. ¶¶86, 89. The Jail also had the discretion to restrict recreation time based on operational or safety concerns. Id. ¶88. During recreation, inmates could access showers that were located in the common area. Id. ¶87. If an inmate refused his recreation time, he waived his opportunity to shower on that day. Id. ¶¶86, 90. During the twelve-day period the plaintiff complains about, the defendants assert that he refused his recreation time on two occasions: June 14 and June 24, 2014. Id. ¶94.

The Jail feeds Nutraloaf to inmates on disciplinary status; the defendants indicate that Nutraloaf is similar in texture to meatloaf. The inmates receive the Nutraloaf three times per day, except on Sundays, when inmates receive the same food trays ...

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