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Brown v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 11, 2014

DEMETRIUS BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

ROBERT B. KUGLER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff is a former federal prisoner who was previously incarcerated at F.C.I. Fort Dix in Fort Dix, New Jersey.[1] He is proceeding pro se with an amended complaint pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), alleging violations of his constitutional rights. His original complaint was dismissed predominantly with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Nevertheless, plaintiff was given the opportunity to submit a motion to reopen and file an amended complaint.

Subsequently, plaintiff filed an application to reopen along with an amended complaint. Therefore, the Clerk will be ordered to reopen this case and file the amended complaint. At this time, the Court must review the amended complaint to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from suit. For the following reasons the amended complaint will be dismissed. However, plaintiff shall be given leave to file a second amended complaint on his claims that are being dismissed without prejudice.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Allegations of Amended Complaint

For purposes of this screening, the allegations of the amended complaint will be construed as true. Plaintiff names as defendants the following: (1) Donna Zickefoose - Warden F.C.I. Fort Dix; (2) Jacqueline B. Nichols - Associate Warden F.C.I. Fort Dix; (3) Janel Fitzgerald - Captain F.C.I. Fort Dix; (4) D. Adams - Special Investigative Agent F.C.I. Fort Dix;

(5) Mr. McKinnon - Unit Manager F.C.I. Fort Dix; (6) Mr. Emmert & Mr. Olesen - Case Managers F.C.I. Fort Dix; (7) Tracey Sims - Counsel F.C.I. Fort Dix; (8) Unknown Bureau of Prison Officials; and (9) the United States.

Plaintiff states that upon arriving at F.C.I. Fort Dix in April, 2008, he was placed in general population Unit 5711. Plaintiff alleges that on January 26, 2010, a series of disturbances occurred in the East Side of F.C.I. Fort Dix. Specifically, at the beginning of the 4:00 p.m. stand up count, Unit 5703 inmates activated multiple pull-station fire alarms in the housing unit, disrupting normal operations and the taking of the count. Thereafter, a Disturbance Control Team ("DCT") was called to assist in clearing Unit 5703 and to conduct a mass shakedown of the housing unit. Two inmates were placed in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") for disorderly behavior.

On January 27, 2010, based on information gathered in the initial interviews, prison staff conducted follow-up interviews of the inmates. At the conclusion of these follow-up interviews, eight inmates were scheduled to be placed immediately into the SHU.

As the follow-up interviews were being conducting on January 27, 2010, all but fifteen of the 334 inmates at the Satellite Camp refused to attend the noon meal. At the conclusion of interviews at the Satellite Camp, forty-two inmates were scheduled for placement at the SHU and were transported there by bus.

On January 28, 2010, to relieve overcrowding at the SHU, forty inmates were bussed to the Federal Medical Center at Devens, Massachusetts, pending transfer to another facility. Later that day, fire-alarm pull stations were activated once in Unit 5703 and twice in Unit 5711. The DCT again escorted inmates from the unit for interviews and conducted a shakedown search of 5711. DCT staff transported an additional thirty-four inmates from Units 5703 and 5711 to the SHU.

As interviews were being conducted of Unit 5711 inmates, a fire-alarm pull station in Unit 5702 was then activated. Staff interviewed Unit 5702 inmates, and one inmate from Unit 5702 was placed in the SHU for attempting to disrupt the interviews.

On January 29, 2010, to relieve overcrowding in the SHU, thirty-nine inmates were transported to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York ("MDC - Brooklyn"). Later, an additional thirty-four inmates from Unit 5711 and two inmates from Unit 5702 were placed in SHU.

On February 3, 2010, to relieve overcrowding in the SHU, forty inmates were transported to FMC at Devens, Massachusetts. Following their departure, forty inmates from Unit 5702 were then placed in the SHU.

Plaintiff alleges that from January 26 through 29, 2010, over 700 inmates were interviewed in connection with the repeated activation of the fire-alarms as well as for the introduction of contraband into the housing units. Plaintiff states that inmates identified as being involved in either contraband trafficking or acting disruptively were placed in the SHU. Plaintiff claims that inmates who "boisterously" resisted the interview or shakedowns were also placed in the SHU. Nonetheless, plaintiff alleges that individual incident reports were not issued due to a lack of evidence.

With respect to these incidents, the amended complaint further states that while plaintiff was watching television on January 26, 2010, the buzzard for the fire alarm sounded but ceased after several minutes. Subsequently, after ten to fifteen minutes, the buzzard sounded again. Plaintiff noticed Unit Counselor Sims appearing to do a check. Plaintiff overheard Sims explain to someone else that there was a system malfunction with the fire alarms. Later on January 26, 2010, Sims was doing a walkthrough and stopped by plaintiff's room in Room 247 of Unit 5711. Sims noticed that several jackets had been hooked over the bedposts and plaintiff was told not to place the jackets over the bedposts.

At around 1:00 p.m. on January 28, 2010, the buzzard for the fire alarm went off again. The inmates were ordered to exit the building. Thereafter, Unit Manager McKinnon and Captain Janel Fitzgerald stated that an investigation was being conducted with respect to who pulled the fire alarm and that until the investigation was completed, Unit 5711 would remain on lockdown. That evening, inmates (including plaintiff), were escorted by gunpoint by staff dressed in black fatigues to be interviewed. Plaintiff was interviewed and said that he knew nothing about the buzzing of the fire alarms. He also responded to a hypothetical that if he knew anything he still would not tell as it would violate his right to silence and self-incrimination.

On January 29, 2010, an Assistant Warden came down to issue an ultimatum designed to discover who was responsible for pulling the fire alarms. He advised the inmates that privileges would be taken away until the discovery was made.

Subsequently, staff members in black fatigues with guns entered the building to escort selected inmates to an awaiting bus outside. Case Manager Emmert was one of these staff members. Plaintiff's name was called by Emmert and plaintiff was placed in plastic handcuffs and escorted to the bus waiting outside. Plaintiff noticed Counselor Sims and another staff member looking at the bus and pointing and laughing. After thirty-four inmates were selected, the bus started and exited the East Compound. Plaintiff was in pain due to the plastic handcuffs on the ride on the bus to the SHU.

Upon arriving at the SHU, plaintiff was placed into a two-man cell where two other inmates already resided. Plaintiff was instructed to sleep on the floor and given a bed mat to do so. Plaintiff was forced to sleep at the foot of the toilet in the room. The toilet/sink leaked water and dust covered the walls and floor. Plaintiff was deprived of fresh air and warmth due to the lack of ventilation. Plaintiff also states that he could not properly breath and that his bones ached due to having to sleep on the floor.

On February 1, 2010, while in the SHU, plaintiff submitted an inmate request form which requested notice of any charges filed against him.

On February 2, 2010, staff members, including the warden, assistant wardens, lieutenants, and captain made their weekly rounds to the SHU, attending to inmate problems. Plaintiff questioned Captain Fitzgerald about the status of his request for notice of any charges filed against him as well as how much longer he would be detained in the SHU. Captain Fitzgerald responded that he would be detained for three weeks.

On February 3, 2010, plaintiff was moved to another two-man cell which already had two inmates residing in it. Plaintiff once ...


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