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Jackson v. Smith

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 8, 2018

Frederick K. Jackson, Plaintiff,
Michelle Smith, David Reishus, and Mike Costello, Defendants.

          Fredrick K. Jackson plaintiff, pro se

          Caitlin M. Micko and Rachel E. Bell counsel for the defendants


          Katherine Menendez United States Magistrate Judge

         This case involves prison disciplinary decisions allegedly made by the Defendants in violation of the constitutional rights of the Plaintiff, Frederic K. Jackson. This matter is before the Court on the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. [ECF No. 33.] For the reasons that follow, the Court recommends that the Defendants' motion be granted and this case be dismissed.

         I. Background

         During the relevant time period, Mr. Jackson was in the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Oak Park Heights. Generally speaking, Mr. Jackson's Amended Complaint describes two main concerns. First, he asserts that he was disciplined for being involved in a conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the prison, but was not provided sufficient procedural protections during the disciplinary process. As a sanction, Mr. Jackson was transferred to the Administrative Control Unit (“ACU”) within Oak Park Heights, where he asserts that the living conditions are worse than in the prison's general population. Given the conditions in the ACU, Mr. Jackson claims that he was constitutionally entitled to a more substantial hearing under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

         Second, Mr. Jackson asserts that the correctional officer responsible for finding him guilty of the smuggling conspiracy, Defendant Mike Costello, destroyed his property, including legal materials, in retaliation for Mr. Jackson's appeal of the disciplinary charges. This destruction of property and legal materials allegedly prevented Mr. Jackson from litigating issues related to the criminal conviction that led to his confinement in the prison. Mr. Jackson claims that these events deprived him of his constitutional right of access to the courts under the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment.

         Mr. Jackson seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as damages against Mr. Costello. [See Am. Compl. at 28-29, ECF No. 30.]

         The Smuggling Conspiracy and Disciplinary Charges

         Mr. Jackson explains that in early August of 2015, another inmate named Prentis Jackson (“Prentis”) was meeting with his girlfriend and child and was observed removing a package of cocaine from the child's pants pocket. [Am. Compl. at 4, ¶ A.] Prentis did this on two separate occasions, but was caught on August 9th. [Id.] An investigator then reviewed the prison calls of Prentis, Cornelius Jackson (“Cornelius”), Lamante Martin, and Mr. Jackson. [Id. at 4-5 ¶ B.] The investigator found a call Mr. Jackson made “to someone he referred to as his uncle and told him that Cornelius Jackson's mom is going to drop off some money and to get her together and tell her you have that book for her.” [Id. at 5 ¶ C.] Cornelius meanwhile called his mom and asked her if she had received a book and told her that it had to have a “soft cover” due to prison rules. [Id. at 5 ¶ D.] Mr. Jackson asserts that because Cornelius referenced a “soft” covered book, and soft is a slang term for powder cocaine, Mr. Jackson was “charged with conspiracy along with Martin.” [Id.]

         On August 10, 2015, Mr. Jackson was placed in administrative segregation, a more restrictive environment within the prison. [Am. Compl. ¶ 3.] On August 13, 2015, the Defendant Mike Costello served Mr. Jackson with disciplinary charges asserting “that he conspired to smuggle cocaine into the facility to possess illegal narcotics.” [Id. ¶ 4.] Mr. Jackson rejected Mr. Costello's offer of “a deal of 180 days in seg” and stated that he would be calling witnesses. [Id. ¶ 6-7.] He also informed Mr. Costello that the witnesses he wanted to call were Prentis, Cornelius, and Mr. Martin and that he wanted to present evidence of test results showing that Mr. Jackson had a clean urinary analysis on August 14, 2015. [Id. ¶ 10.] However, Mr. Costello told Mr. Jackson that he would not be able to call any witnesses because the procedure would involve only “a minor hearing.” [Id. ¶ 8.] Mr. Jackson alleges that Mr. Costello was manipulating the disciplinary process by treating a major rule violation as a minor one in order to deny Mr. Jackson the opportunity to call witnesses. [Id. ¶¶11, 13.]

         Mr. Jackson objected and wrote a kite to the Oak Park Heights Warden, Defendant Michelle Smith. [Am. Compl. ¶ 9.] He also wrote to “Captain Ayers” explaining that he believed Mr. Costello had improperly treated the disciplinary issue as an infraction warranting a minor hearing rather than a major one, which would have entailed more procedural protections. [Id. ¶¶ 12-13.] Despite Mr. Jackson's objection Mr. Costello conducted a minor hearing on August 19, 2015, at which Mr. Jackson was found to have violated prison rules even though Cornelius told Mr. Costello that Mr. Jackson played no part in the smuggling. [Id. ¶¶ 15-17.] Mr. Jackson received a punishment of 240 days in the ACU. [Id. ¶ 17.] After his intermediate efforts to appeal Mr. Costello's decision, Defendant David Reishus denied an appeal on September 8, 2015, but reduced his sentence from 240 to 200 days, with the 40 days suspended for six months provided that Mr. Jackson received no same or similar charges. [Am. Compl. ¶¶ 18-20.]

         To show that he should have received a major hearing, Mr. Jackson includes a number of allegations concerning the living conditions in the ACU. Mr. Jackson also alleges that the ACU has only one television channel, and on it, he and other African American inmates viewed a movie called “Amazing Grace, ” which depicted degrading and inhuman treatment that people of color experienced during the slave trade. [Id. ¶¶ 39-40.] For the inmates in ACU, recreation time was regularly canceled due to staffing shortages, and inmates frequently spent 24 straight hours locked in their cells. [See Id. ¶¶ 62, 65.] Inmates are not able to interact with one another while in the ACU because of the design of the doors. [Id. ¶ 64.]

         Mr. Jackson further alleges that: (1) the cells in ACU are extremely cold; (2) inmates are subjected to strip searches under unsanitary conditions; (3) the showers are cold and inmates are permitted only five minutes to bathe; (4) rooms were cleaned with dirty mop water; (5) cells are infested with insects; (6) inmates must meet with visitors behind glass using an intercom or by video; (7) no human contact is permitted; (8) lights are kept on 24 hours a day; (9) inmates are not allowed to visit the law library; (10) inmates are provided inadequate nutrition; (11) severely mentally ill inmates are housed in ACU along with inmates who are “temporarily sane”; and (12) there is a failure of prison officials to “do required security rounds.”[Am. Compl ¶¶ 80-103.]

         While he was in the ACU, several other inmates attempted suicide, one smeared feces on the walls in a room neighboring Mr. Jackson's, and others screamed obscenities and nonsensical statements for hours. [Id. ¶¶ 41-45, 49, 51-52.] Mr. Jackson himself contemplated suicide on several occasions while in ACU. [Id. ¶¶ 47, 111.] He experienced hallucinations and became paranoid. [Id. ¶ 111, 116.] His paranoia leads him to think about harming others before they harm him, which resulted in a fight with another inmate in the ACU. [Id. ¶ 116.] Since his incarceration in the ACU, Mr. Jackson alleges that he has a hard time communicating and has experienced memory loss. [Id. ¶ 117.]

         In September 2016, changes were made to the segregation policy at Oak Park Heights. [Am. Compl. ¶¶ 119-24.] “[I]n response to increasing concerns about the harmful effects of extended segregation placements . . . a 90 [day] cap was placed on segregation sentence[s].” [Id. ¶¶ 119, 121.]

         Retaliation and Access to Courts

         Because he appealed Mr. Costello's determinations that he would only receive a minor hearing and that he violated prison rules, Mr. Jackson alleges that Costello retaliated against him. Mr. Costello allegedly “destroyed [Mr. Jackson's] legal work, legal notes, attorney letters, law books and television.” [Am. Compl. ¶ 128.] When Mr. Jackson lodged a claim relating to his property, Mr. Costello recommended that Mr. Jackson's property claim be denied “to cover up [Costello's] misconduct.” [Id. ¶ 129.] When the “subcommittee made [Mr. Jackson] an offer for the reimbursement of the destruction of his property, legal paper, T.V. and everything he wrote down in his claims[, Mr. Costello] was visibly upset.” He told Mr. Jackson that if he had just accepted the punishment initially offered for the smuggling charges, his property would not have been destroyed. [Id. ¶ 130.] Eventually, Mr. Jackson was reimbursed for his property. [Id. ¶ 132.]

         Despite being reimbursed, Mr. Jackson states that because his legal materials were destroyed he has been prevented from challenging his conviction. [Am. Compl. ¶ 135.] In particular, he lost “newly discovered evidence” as a result of Mr. Costello's destruction of his property. Among the items he allegedly lost were the following: (1) notes of a recorded conversation with the owner of a firearm allegedly used by Mr. Jackson during the commission of a robbery; (2) notes of a recorded conversation with an individual named Tameka Bell, in which she states that a detective threatened to prosecute her if she testified on Mr. Jackson's behalf at an evidentiary hearing; (3) transcripts of a phone call with a prosecution witness who provided exculpatory information indicating that Mr. Jackson was not involved in a murder; and (4) cell phone records from 15 years ago that would show that Mr. Jackson was not at the scene of the crime for which he was convicted. [Id. ¶ 136.] Mr. Jackson asserts that destruction of this evidence prevented him from supporting a habeas corpus or post-conviction petition. [Id. ΒΆ 143.] Similarly, Mr. ...

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