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Scott v. Schneider

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

September 19, 2016



          WILLIAM E. DUFFIN U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Jeffrey Scott, who is representing himself, filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 alleging that his civil rights were violated while he was incarcerated at Waupun Correctional Institution (Waupun). The court screened Scott's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C §1915A(a) and allowed him to proceed with his claims that the defendants violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment when they conducted a strip search without any penological justification.

         On March 11, 2016, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. That motion was fully briefed on April 28, 2016. On June 15, 2016, the court ordered the defendants to supplement their summary judgment materials to address specific questions posed by the court. The defendants did so on July 5, 2016. Although the court gave Scott the opportunity to respond to the defendants' additional materials, he has not done so. For the reasons explained below, the court grants the defendants' motion and dismisses this lawsuit.

         I. FACTS

         The facts are primarily taken from “Defendants' Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Proposed Findings of Fact.” (ECF No. 68.) Additional facts are taken from Defendants' Supplemental Proposed Findings of Fact. (ECF No. 71.) The facts are undisputed unless noted otherwise.

         At all relevant times Scott was confined at Waupun. (ECF No. 68 ¶1.) Defendants Joseph Beahm and Jeffrey Gill are employed by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) as correctional officers at Waupun. (Id. at ¶3-4.) Defendant Jessie Schneider is employed by the DOC as a supervising officer 1 (lieutenant) at Waupun. (Id. at ¶5.) And defendant Gabriel Umentum is employed by the DOC as a correctional sergeant at Waupun. (Id. at ¶6.)

         On November 11, 2013, Beahm was conducting a standard wellness check (i.e., count) of lower B-Range, where Scott was housed. (Id. at ¶32.) During such checks staff members are required to view an inmate's skin and movement. (Id.) Although prison procedures allow an inmate to rest or sleep with something over his eyes, his mouth and the lower part of his face must be visible to security staff. (Id.)

         When Beahm arrived at Scott's cell he was unable to see Scott's skin because blankets were covering his entire body. (Id. at ¶33.) According to Beahm, he knocked numerous times on Scott's door and yelled loudly at Scott to make some type of movement but received no response. (Id. at ¶34.) Beahm notified Umentum, who was able to get a response from Scott about five minutes later. (Id. at ¶35.)

         Beahm decided to write a conduct report and fill out a restriction form to place Scott on a linen restriction based on Scott's refusal to obey Beahm's orders to uncover and show movement. (ECF No. 71 ¶97, 101.) According to Beahm, inmates are placed on restrictions based on the items they misuse. (Id.) Because Scott abused his linen by completely covering himself and thwarting Beahm's attempt to confirm his well-being, Beahn recommended that Scott's use of linen be restricted (i.e., he would be restricted to one blanket and one washcloth). (ECF No. 68 ¶37; ECF No. 71 ¶105.)

         Scott argues that Beahm did not have authority to place him on such a restriction. (ECF No. 68 ¶36.) This appears to be true; however, Beahm explains that, when a restriction form is submitted, it goes into effect immediately while a security supervisor and the security director decide whether to approve it. (Id.) If the security supervisor or the security director do not approve the recommended restriction, the inmate is removed from the restriction. (Id.)

         As a result of being placed on the linen restriction, Schneider and other staff went to Scott's cell to retrieve his linen. (Id.) Scott refused numerous directives to hand his linen to jail staff. (Id.) Schneider states that, because Scott had been uncooperative several times that morning, Schneider decided to order a strip search to make sure that Scott did not have any contraband. (Id. at ¶41; ECF No. 71 ¶109.) According to Schneider, if an inmate is uncooperative, it is usually for a reason. (ECF No. 68 ¶42.) Thus, when an inmate exhibits behavior indicating that he may be hiding contraband, such as refusing to uncover himself or refusing to hand out his linen, a supervisor will order that the inmate be strip searched. (ECF No. 71 ¶108.)

         A cell extraction team was eventually assembled to remove Scott from his cell; however, a correctional officer (who is not named as a defendant) was able to get Scott to agree to come out of his cell voluntarily and go to the strip cell. (ECF No. 68 at ¶39.) Once at the strip cell, Scott refused to comply with a voluntary strip search, so Schneider directed Gill to perform a staff-assisted strip search. (Id. at ¶39, 42.)

         Generally, a strip search is performed as follows: correctional staff direct the inmate to remove all clothing and hand it over to the searching staff member. (Id. at ¶19.) Once the inmate is naked, the staff member visually inspects the inmate's entire body, including hair, ears, mouth, nose, hands, armpits, groin area, between toes, bottoms of feet, inner portions of the legs, and rectum. (Id.) The staff member then inspects the inmate's clothing and personal articles and returns them to the inmate. (Id.)

         When an inmate displays non-compliant behavior immediately prior to a strip search, staff conduct a staff-assisted strip search. (Id. at ¶22.) In a staff-asssited strip search, the inmate is restrained and two officers maintain hands-on control of the inmate by holding on to his arms. (Id.) A third staff member cuts off the inmate's clothing and inspects the clothes for contraband. (Id.) The staff member then visually inspects the inmate's body. (Id.) Because the inmate is restrained, the staff member conducting the search needs to physically touch the inmate with gloved hands. (Id.) Two bladed or straightened fingers are used to lift the inmate's testicles, and the backs of both bladed hands are used to separate the inmate's buttocks. (Id.) Contact with the inmate's testicles and buttocks is very brief, lasting just a second. (Id.) A staff-assisted strip search has to be approved by a supervisor, who must be present during the search. (Id. at ¶23.)

         According to Scott, all four defendants were present during the search. (Id. at ¶43, 45, 46.) Gill's search of Scott yielded no contraband, and Scott was escorted back to his cell without further incident. (Id. at ¶39, 47.)

         In December 2013 Scott wrote to the Waupun Health Services Department and alleged that he was sexually assaulted by a staff member during a strip search. (Id. at ¶80.) In the course of investigating Scott's claim, he was interviewed and described his interaction with Gill:

Q: . . . was there any . . .
A: . . . he said, he said, he was like I'm fittin' to use the back of my hands to spread your cheeks. And he spread my cheeks. Then he went around to the front and he was like, I'm fittin' to use the back of my hands to lift your nuts and that's what he did.
Q: So he said he was going to use the back of his hands and did he use the back of his hands when ...

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