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Lindsey v. Tom

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

March 30, 2018


          OPINION & ORDER


         Pro se plaintiff Carlos Lindsey, a state prisoner confined at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF), contends that he was subjected to unconstitutional strip searches in violation of the Eighth Amendment. He contends he could not have hidden any contraband, so defendants had no valid penological reason to strip search him. He also contends that defendants strip searched him in a manner intended to humiliate him because they searched his genital area by requiring him to manipulate his genitals and defendant Andrew Jones used his fingers to spread his buttocks.

         Both sides move for summary judgment. Lindsey's threats of self-harm prompted each of the strip searches, so each search had a legitimate penological reason: to ensure Lindsey's safety. Whether Lindsey could have hidden any contraband is a question of prison security on which I will defer to the judgment of prison officials. Lindsey's allegations that he was required to manipulate his genitals contradict the video recordings, so they do not raise a genuine dispute of any material fact. Jones's use of his fingers to spread Lindsey's buttocks does not show any intent to humiliate. I will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment and deny Lindsey's motion for summary judgment. I will direct the clerk of court to enter judgment in favor of defendants and close the case.


         I begin with preliminary issues that define the scope of Lindsey's claims. On summary judgment, Lindsey contends that he was subjected to strip searches on May 17, 2015, May 19, 2015, and July 12, 2015, and twice on July 13, 2016. Lindsey did not challenge the May 17 and July 12 strip searches in his complaint. Nor does he explain how those two searches were unconstitutional in his summary judgment submissions. He has forfeited any complaint about those two searches. That leaves three strip searches: the May 19, 2015 search and the two July 13, 2016 searches.

         I allowed Lindsey to proceed against the Doe defendants who participated in conducting the strip searches on him. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker explained to Lindsey how to identify the Doe defendants and set April 7, 2017, as the deadline for filing an amended complaint identifying the Doe defendants. Dkt. 14, at 3. But Lindsey did not identify the Doe defendants, and he does not raise any substantive argument against them now. Court staff automatically terminated the Doe defendants on July 10, 2017, for Lindsey's failure to meet the deadline to identify them. I will formally dismiss Lindsey's claims against the Doe defendants in the order below.


         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         All relevant events took place while Lindsey was incarcerated at WSPF. All defendants were security staff at WSPF. Craig Tom, a lieutenant, ordered the May 19, 2015 search and the first July 13, 2016 search. Andrew Jones, a correctional officer, conducted the May 19, 2015 search. Larry Primmer, a captain, ordered the second July 13, 2016 search.

         A. Strip searches at WSPF

         WSPF, like Wisconsin prisons generally, conducts two types of strip searches: “visual” strip searches and “staff-assisted” strip searches. In a visual strip search, an inmate removes his own clothing and moves his own body parts at the direction of a staff member. The staff member examines the inmate's body visually without touching it.

         A staff-assisted strip search involves some touching. A staff member uses a knife or scissors to remove an inmate's clothing. The staff member then checks the inmate's mouth, hair, ears, fingers, armpits, feet, and toes. The staff member may touch sensitive areas using “bladed hands, ” meaning that the hands are kept flat with the fingers together as the staff member checks underneath the inmate's penis, scrotum, and between the buttocks.

         An inmate who has been informed that he must be strip searched ordinarily has an opportunity to choose a visual strip search, but if an inmate resists or is violent, then a staff member performs a staff-assisted strip search. In both types of strip searches, a staff member may visually inspect an inmate's body cavities, but only medical staff are allowed to search by means of penetration. Wis. Admin. Code DOC § 306.17(2)(b) and (3). A strip search is required when an inmate is placed on clinical observation status for being suicidal or posing a danger to himself or others. Likewise, a strip search is required when an inmate is placed on control status for being disruptive or violent. A supervisor may also order a strip search to ensure the safety of an inmate or prison staff.

         B. May 19, 2015 strip search

         On May 19, 2015, Lindsey threatened to harm himself and reported that he did not feel safe in his cell. Stacey Hoem, a psychologist at WSPF, decided to place Lindsey on clinical observation status, and Tom asked Lindsey whether he would comply with a strip search. Lindsey at first said he would, but when correctional officers were escorting him to a holding cell for a strip search, he said, “Ya'll might as well do a staff-assisted strip search too, ” and said that the officers needed to get scissors because he would not comply with the strip search. Dkt. 34, ¶ 25. Tom ordered a staff-assisted strip search, and the officers escorted Lindsey to a holding cell, where Jones conducted a staff-assisted strip search on Lindsey. See Dkt. 26-1 (video recording of the staff-assisted strip search on May 19, 2015).

         C. July 13, ...

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