United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
TRAVIS LEROY GARNER, JR. Plaintiff,
RICHARD LISENBE, MATT SHULTS, and STEVE LORTS, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Travis Leroy Garner, Jr., an inmate at Phelps County Jail,
seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this civil action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Having reviewed plaintiff's
financial information, the Court assesses a partial initial
filing fee of $1.00, which reasonable based upon the
information the Court has about plaintiff's finances.
See Henderson v. Norris, 129 F.3d 481, 484 (8th Cir.
1997) (when a prisoner is unable to provide the Court with a
certified copy of his prison account statement, the Court
should assess an amount “that is reasonable, based on
whatever information the court has about the prisoner's
finances”). Furthermore, after reviewing the complaint,
the Court will partially dismiss the complaint and will order
the Clerk to issue process or cause process to be issued on
the non-frivolous portions of the complaint.
Standard on Initial Review
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court is required to dismiss a
complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. To state a claim for relief, a complaint must plead
more than “legal conclusions” and
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action [that are] supported by mere conclusory
statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). A plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim
for relief, which is more than a “mere possibility of
misconduct.” Id. at 679. “A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Id. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a
plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense. Id. at 679.
reviewing a complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the
Court accepts the well-pled facts as true. Furthermore, the
Court liberally construes the allegations.
brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Richard
Lisenbe (Sheriff of Phelps County), Matt Shults (Lieutenant,
Jail Administrator of the Phelps County Jail), and Steve
Lorts (Sergeant) for violations of his rights under the First
Amendment, Eighth Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment.
Plaintiff complains of overcrowding at the Phelps County
Jail. Plaintiff is housed in E-Pod which was designed to
house 16 inmates-there are 16 bunks, 16 spaces for dining,
and 2 toilets. Plaintiff alleges the average number of
inmates in the E-Pod is 36, but at times can rise to 55
alleges that because of the overcrowding, the jail is
unsanitary, does not allow recreation time, fresh air or
daylight, and he has been forced to sleep on concrete when
the jail has run out of mattresses. He states he has to eat
standing up or sitting on his bunk, and he has spilled his
tray of food twice causing him to go without eating. He
states the E-Pod is so full, “there is not room to move
around, ” and this has caused his extremities to
atrophy. On one occasion, while he was suffering severe
stomach pains and severe diarrhea, plaintiff was forced to
wait more than two hours for a toilet. Plaintiff alleges the
overcrowding has caused him frequent headaches, dizziness,
stress, and pain.
First Amendment claims, plaintiff states that the
overcrowding at Phelps County Jail caused defendants to ban
any opportunity for religious services. Religious services
were previously held in the gymnasium, but because of
overcrowding, jail administrators repurposed the gym into
additional housing units. Plaintiff alleges this has caused
him emotional distress.
has complained to defendants about the conditions, and states
he was threatened by defendants Lisenbe and Shults that if he
continued to complain he would serve his time in the
“pink room” (i.e., a punishment cell
with no mattress, bunk, or toilet). In addition, both
defendants have verbally abused plaintiff and demeaned his
race. For relief, plaintiff seeks release from jail and
monetary damages of more than $3.5 million.
state a claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement
under the Eighth Amendment, an inmate must show that the
alleged deprivations denied him the minimal civilized measure
of life's necessities and that defendants were
deliberately indifferent to excessive risk to his health or
safety. See Seltzer-Bey v. Delo, 66 F.3d 961, 964
(8th Cir. 1995). Overcrowding alone does not describe a
constitutional violation. See Patchette v. Nix, 952
F.2d 158, 163 (8th Cir. 1991). Overcrowding that leads to
increased danger, poor supervision, safety, medical care, and
food preparation, however, can violate the Eighth Amendment.
See Cody v. Hillard, 799 F.2d 447, 450 (8th Cir.
1986), on reh'g, 830 F.2d 912 (8th Cir. 1987)
(citing cases). The conditions must “evince the
‘wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain'
necessary to constitute a violation of the Eighth
Amendment.” Cody, 830 F.2d at 914 (quoting
Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)).
has not alleged that the overcrowding has led to any
increased danger. He does not allege any fights have broken
out due to the overcrowding. See, e.g.,
Owen v. Lisenbe, No. 4:17-CV-1547 HEA (E.D. Mo.
filed Sept. 27, 2017) (alleging the stress and frustration
caused by overcrowding at Phelps County Jail has caused two
fights in which plaintiff was injured by other inmates).
Plaintiff has not alleged poor supervision, safety, medical
care, or food preparation. At most, plaintiff has had to
sleep on concrete twice and has spilled his tray of food
twice. These allegations do not evince the wanton and
unnecessary infliction of pain necessary to violate the
allegations regarding his lack of recreation time, however,
are more severe. Plaintiff alleges that because the gymnasium
has been converted into a housing unit, he receives no time
out of the E-Pod and no recreation. He states the pod is so
full that there is no room to move around, much less
exercise. Plaintiff has alleged the lack of recreational
facilities, due to overcrowding, has deprived him of all
exercise, direct sunlight, and fresh air. As a result, he
alleges he suffers frequent headaches, dizziness, stress,
pain, and that his extremities are beginning to atrophy. The
Eighth Circuit has held that a prisoner confined to his cell
for more than sixteen hours a day should be allowed
recreation. See Campbell v. Cauthron, 623 F.2d 503,
506-07 (1980) (“We have no trouble concluding that such
crowded conditions[, inmates with as little as eighteen
square feet of living space, ] constitute cruel and unusual
punishment for those convicted inmates who are kept in their
cramped cells for all ...