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Rouse v. Starks

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 2, 2018

TERRY ROUSE, Plaintiff,
SGT. STARKS, et al., Defendants.


          Madeline Cox Arleo, District Judge United States District Court.


         This matter has been opened to the Court by Plaintiffs filing of a Complaint ("Original Complaint") (ECF No. 1), and a motion to amend his Complaint to add additional claims and Defendants ("Amended Complaint"). (ECF No. 21, 21-1.) The Court has screened the Original Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and will proceed the Original Complaint in part and dismiss it in part as described in this Opinion. The Court finds, however, that Plaintiffs Amended Complaint is not properly joined with the Original Complaint, and will therefore dismiss the Amended Complaint without prejudice to Plaintiffs filing of a new action or actions.


         a. Plaintiffs Original Complaint

         In his original Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Sgt. Starks, a corrections officer at Northern State Prison, harassed Plaintiff about his religious beliefs while Plaintiff was on his way to religious services. Plaintiff is a Seventh Day Adventist. (ECF No. 1, Original Complaint at 2.) After searching Plaintiffs bible, Sgt. Starks asked why Plaintiff was paying tithes to a god that does not exist. Plaintiff informed Sgt. Starks that he was making 58 cents an hour at the sewing shop, and Sgt. Starks continued to harass Plaintiff and "cursed" Plaintiffs god. (Id.) The same week, Plaintiff was fired from his job for allegedly stealing pants. Plaintiff, however, worked in the sheet section of the sewing shop. According to Plaintiff, three inmates were fired for the theft of two pairs of pants. (Id. at 2.) The Complaint initially implies that Sgt. Starks was involved in Plaintiffs firing; later in the Complaint, Plaintiff directly asserts that Sgt. Starks had Plaintiff fired. (Id. at 5.)

         Subsequently, in March 2016, Plaintiff was working as a volunteer at the chapel and was searched because an inmate had passed him a piece of paper with commissary items written on it. Plaintiff had his own prescribed medication in his pocket and had two pills in his pocket at the time of the search. Plaintiff was strip searched with another inmate and nothing was found on them. The other inmate was released, but Plaintiff was kept in handcuffs and was interrogated by Officers Blackwell and Sanchez, and Sgt. Starks. Sgt. Starks wanted Plaintiff to provide "some type of information, " which Plaintiff did either did not have or would not provide. Sgt. Starks told Plaintiff he was going to "lock up" and claimed that he found pills wrapped in plastic in the strip search room after Plaintiff left. Sgt. Starks allegedly told Plaintiff: "Your god cannot help you now, and he did not help you when you lost your job." (Id. at 2.)

         Plaintiff was taken to the suicide unit. Although Plaintiff was interviewed and cleared from being suicidal, Sgt. Starks had him placed in a "dry cell" for three days. Plaintiff had no clothes other than a "suicide gown", "no mattress, ... no tissue[s], no spoon, or cosmetics." He was forced to sleep on a steel frame bunk and had to eat with his hands and could not use the toilet until tissue was brought to him. Sgt. Starks informed Plaintiff that he would remain in these conditions until he gave Sgt. Starks the information he wanted. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that state regulations require that prison officials provide him with a foam mattress, a suicide blanket, spoon, cup, soap, toothpaste, and anti-shank toothbrush, and that none of these items were provided to him. Plaintiff further alleges that when investigators come to the facility, the staff is alerted and directed to provide the items. (Id. at 3.) Later in the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Major Crone is responsible for compound operations and that Major Crone alerts the staff regarding inspections, at which time the staff places the required items in prisoners' cells on the suicide unit. (Id. at 6.)

         Plaintiff has also sued Associate Administrator Cindy Sweeney, stating that she should have been aware of Sgt. Starks' misconduct from his "file" and his prior history of misconduct and should have prevented the conditions Plaintiff experienced in the suicide unit. (Id. at 3, 6.)

         Finally, Plaintiff has sued Officer L. Little who is a corrections officer at Northern State Prison and is friendly with Sgt. Starks. When Plaintiff was released from the suicide unit, Sgt. Starks harassed Plaintiff at breakfast and asked him if he was going to "lie" and say that Sgt. Starks set Plaintiff up. He also told Plaintiff that no one would believe Plaintiff because Starks has "friends in blue" all around him. (Id. at 4.) Sgt. Starks then went over to Officer Little and began talking to her about Plaintiff. (Id.) It appears that Plaintiff subsequently filed a grievance regarding Sgt. Starks, and that Officer Little made "nasty comments" to Plaintiff and called him "a coward" for reporting Sgt. Starks. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff subsequently informed Officer Little, who is responsible for payroll, that his payroll had not been processed, and Little told him she would check with business office, but did not submit a supplemental payroll for Plaintiff. Plaintiff submitted a grievance about his payroll and the funds were put into his account. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Officer Little assisted another inmate in getting his payroll and has showed favoritism toward certain inmates. Later in the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Little retaliated against him for reporting Sgt. Starks' misconduct by not putting Plaintiff on the payroll. (Id. at 6.)

         b. Plaintiffs Supplemental Complaint

         On November 28, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to "amend" his complaint and has attached an Amended Complaint, which adds new Defendants and facts that are unrelated to the claims in his Original Complaint. (See ECF No. 21-1.)

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he has been denied visitation with his children by the social service department at Northern State Prison. He alleges that Ms. Modlin, Mr. McClinton, and their supervisor Ms. Clyburn would not approve his visits with his children. (ECF No. 21-1, at 2.)

         Plaintiff also attempts to bring a claim for denial of adequate medical care, alleging that on March 6, 2016, Dr. Salem took away Plaintiffs "keep on person" medication due to alleged abuse of his medication despite any proof of such abuse. Plaintiff alleges that he has been shot twice and has a bullet lodged in his left foot. The medications at issue are Naproxen and Neurontin. Plaintiff wrote to Ms. Bridget Hogan of the medical department and Dr. Harold Goldstein of the Psychology Department regarding the issue, and both told him he would be interviewed by mental health staff. Dr. Klansky, a mental health staff member, upheld the restriction by Dr. Salem. Due the restrictions, ...

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