APPEALS FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE. Hon. John A. Woodcock, U.S. District Judge.
Verne Paradie for appellants.
James E. Fortin, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Janet T. Mills, Maine Attorney General, was on brief, for appellees.
Before Thompson, Circuit Judge, Souter,[*] Associate Justice, and Kayatta, Circuit Judge.
SOUTER, Associate Justice.
The appellants in these consolidated cases, David Lakin and Gerard Landry, are inmates in the Maine State Prison. Their actions charge the appellees, officials in the Maine Department of Corrections, with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk that inmates would use padlocks issued to them by the Prison to assault fellow inmates such as the appellants. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994). We agree with the district court that Lakin and Landry have failed to raise a triable issue of substantial risk of assault by padlock and therefore affirm the summary judgment for appellees.
While inmates at the Maine State Prison, David Lakin and Gerard Landry each suffered serious injury in assaults by other inmates using prison-issued padlocks as weapons. In 2010, Lakin was assaulted by two or possibly three others, at least one of whom struck Lakin in the head, face and neck with a padlock. Roughly a year later, Landry was assaulted by another inmate who struck Landry's head and torso with a padlock.
From January 2004 through June 2012, there were at least 372 reported inmate-on-inmate assaults at the Prison, in at least 17 of which padlocks were weapons. Beginning in 2007 and extending through 2012, the total number of all varieties of reported assaults at the Prison rose significantly from past levels, with at least 25 in 2007, 28 in 2008, 50 in 2009, 49 in 2010, 52 in 2011, and 86 in the first nine months of 2012. There were generally no more than two reported padlock assaults annually during this six-year time period, with the notable exception of 2010, when six were reported. See Lakin v. Barnhart, 2013 WL 5407213, at *1 (D. Me. 2013) (noting that there were no reported padlock assaults in 2007, two in 2008, two in 2009, six in 2010, one in 2011, and one in 2012); Landry v. Barnhart, 2013 WL 5407220, at *1 (D. Me. 2013) (same). The summary judgment record does not contain any indication of the level of violence that is customary or generally to be expected at prisons the size and character of Maine's.
Nor does the record serve to explain the spike in violence culminating in the general level for 2012 or the six padlock assaults in 2010. One can only say that the overall violence accelerated roughly with the arrival of a new warden, appellee Patricia Barnhart, whose tenure began in 2009 and continued through the close of discovery in 2012. Barnhart was a successor of appellee Martin Magnusson, who served as Commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections until he retired in 2011 and was replaced by appellee Joseph Ponte.
The record does disclose, however, why padlocks get into prisoners' hands. Maine law requires prison authorities to provide inmates with reasonable means to secure their belongings safely. See 34-A M.R.S. § 3031(7) (" Any person residing in a correctional or detention facility has a right to . . . [a] reasonably secure area for maintenance of permitted personal effects." ). The Prison accordingly has a longstanding practice and informal policy of issuing footlockers with padlocks to all inmates except those housed in segregated units. See Appendix in No. 13-2211 (" App'x" ) at 18 (quoting the Prison Handbook: " The prisoner is responsible to secure his personal property in his assigned storage box with [a] padlock when leaving his cell." ).
Although they knew that inmates sometime used padlocks to assault other prisoners, Magnusson and Barnhart were both of the opinion that providing padlocks actually lowers the level of violence by reducing theft, which often precipitates inmate conflict. The pertinence of this general observation is uncertain, however, since both Lakin and Landry were housed in the Prison's " close custody" unit, where ...