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Frene v. New Hampshire State Prison

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

February 16, 2018

Robert Roy Frene
v.
New Hampshire State Prison

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ANDREA K. JOHNSTONE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the court is pro se plaintiff Robert Roy Frene's complaint (Doc. No. 1) and complaint addenda (Doc. Nos. 3, 5), in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, alleging that the New Hampshire State Prison (“NHSP”) violated his rights during his incarceration at that facility. The matter is before the court for preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) and LR 4.3(d)(1).

         Standard of Review

         In determining whether a pro se pleading states a claim, the court construes the pleading liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Disregarding any legal conclusions, the court considers whether the factual content in the pleading and inferences reasonably drawn therefrom, taken as true, state a facially plausible claim to relief. Hernandez-Cuevas v. Taylor, 723 F.3d 91, 102-03 (1st Cir. 2013) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

         Discussion

         I. Conditions of Confinement

         A. Factual Assertions Frene asserts that while he was incarcerated at the NHSP, he was held in a “very hot” cell for six days without out-of-cell time, a shower, or fresh air. Frene also claims that during that time, he was given food through cell bars that had lead paint on them, had to sleep on a mattress that smelled like urine without a sheet, and that there was human saliva and feces on the cell walls and floor. Frene further alleges that he was assaulted by another inmate while at the NHSP.

         B. Fourteenth and Eighth Amendment Claims

         It is unclear from Frene's complaint whether he was a pretrial detainee or a sentenced prisoner while housed at the NHSP during the time at issue in this case. Frene's claims arise under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause if he was a pretrial detainee at that time, and if he was a sentenced prisoner, under the Eighth Amendment's protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

         The Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause prohibits subjecting pretrial detainees to conditions of confinement that amount to pretrial punishment. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). The Eighth Amendment “prohibits prison officials from depriving sentenced inmates of ‘the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.'” Brown v. Plata, 131 S.Ct. 1910, 1959 (2011) (citation omitted).

         To assert a claim under the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment, plaintiff must, in addition to demonstrating that he was subjected to conditions of confinement that were severe or dangerous enough to violate the constitution, allege facts regarding the defendant's state of mind. Mere negligence does not suffice. “‘[A] prison official cannot be found liable under the Eighth Amendment for denying an inmate humane conditions of confinement unless the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.'” Giroux v. Somerset Cty., 178 F.3d 28, 32 (1st Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). “‘[L]iability for negligently inflicted harm is categorically beneath the threshold of constitutional due process.'” Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2472 (2015) (citation omitted) (emphasis in original).

         Here, Frene has alleged that he was subjected to unsanitary and unpleasant conditions of confinement for six days, and that he was assaulted by another inmate, while at the NHSP. Further, the complaint contains no facts indicating that any prison official was aware of a danger to Frene's health or safety, and, acting with a purposeful, knowing, and/or deliberately indifferent state of mind, either disregarded or failed to take reasonable steps to remedy that danger.

         Accordingly, the assertions set forth in Frene's complaint and complaint addenda (Doc. Nos. 1, 3, 5) are insufficient to support either an Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment claim concerning the conditions of his confinement. The district judge should therefore dismiss those claims, unless Frene files an amended complaint within fourteen days of the date of this Report and Recommendation, identifying individual defendants to his conditions of confinement claims, indicating whether he was a pretrial detainee or a sentenced inmate while at the NHSP, and stating, with specificity, what each defendant did or did not do to violate his rights, including facts to support a ...


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