Johnson v. Prentice

Citation29 F.4th 895
Decision Date31 March 2022
Docket NumberNo. 18-3535,18-3535
Parties Michael JOHNSON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Susan PRENTICE, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)

Daniel Greenfield, Attorney, Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Chicago, IL, Elizabeth Mazur, Attorney, West Town Community Law Office, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Benjamin Feldman Jacobson, Attorney, Office of the Attorney General, Civil Appeals Division, Chicago, IL, for Defendants-Appellees Susan Prentice, and Deidre Marano.

Lynsey Anne Stewart, Julie Ann Teuscher, Attorneys, Cassiday Schade LLP, Chicago, IL, for Defendants-Appellees Andrea Moss, Kelly Haag, and Linda Duckworth.

Laura Lee Rovner, Attorney, University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Civil Rights Clinic, Denver, CO, for Amici Curiae Martin Horn, Justin Jones, Steve Martin, Richard Morgan, Dan Pacholke, Eldon Vail, and Phil Stanley.

Michael P. Doss, Attorney, Michael P. Doss, Chicago, IL, for Amici Curiae Stuart Grassian, Craig Haney, and Terry A. Kupers.

Before Sykes, Chief Judge, and Easterbrook and Rovner, Circuit Judges.

Sykes, Chief Judge.

Michael Johnson, a former Illinois prisoner, sued prison officials and healthcare providers raising claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged Eighth Amendment violations arising while he was in disciplinary segregation. Johnson entered state custody in 2007. His history of prison misconduct—some of it violent and destructive—led to his transfer in March 2013 to the Pontiac Correctional Center to serve a lengthy accumulated term of segregation, more commonly known as solitary confinement.

Johnson suffers from serious mental illness, including depression and bipolar disorder

, and he was on crisis watch nine times while he was in segregation. Mental-health professionals employed by Wexford Health Sources, Inc., the prison healthcare provider, regularly monitored his condition and treated him with medication, which was periodically adjusted.

Johnson's misconduct continued while he was in segregation, especially when he refused to take his medication, and many of his violations were serious enough to trigger penalties of 30 to 90 days of no "yard" access—that is, exercise time outside his cell—as a sanction. Johnson alleged in his pro se complaint that the cumulative yard restrictions—about three years in total, some 24 months of it consecutive—violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. He also complained of unsanitary conditions, poor ventilation, and summertime heat in his cell, and excessive noise by other inmates. Finally, he alleged a claim for inadequate mental-health treatment. The district court entered summary judgment for the defendants.

Johnson's case has undergone a major transformation on appeal. Now represented by counsel and supported by two amici, he seeks redress for the prolonged period he spent in solitary confinement from March 2013 until his transfer to a mental-health unit in August 2016. For support he cites academic research on the harmful effects of solitary confinement.

This claim is new on appeal. Johnson never sought relief for the time he spent in solitary confinement; he sued over his loss of yard access, certain unhealthy conditions in his cell, and his mental-health treatment. Not surprisingly, the record is entirely undeveloped on the issue of the physical and psychological effects of prolonged solitary confinement. Claims not raised in the district court are waived. To the very limited extent that Johnson's current arguments track the claims that were raised below, they are foreclosed by the record and circuit precedent. We therefore affirm.

I. Background

Johnson began serving a sentence in Illinois state prison in February 2007. He was frequently transferred between correctional facilities, partly because of his serious prison misconduct, which includes more than 70 conduct violations from 2008 through August 2016. Almost all were classified as "major" violations. Johnson was often violent, threatening, and destructive. His adjudicated misconduct includes, for example, multiple instances of assaulting correctional officers or other inmates, fighting, intimidation and threats, possession of contraband, damaging property, throwing feces or urine out of his cell or at others, smearing feces on himself or his cell, impairing surveillance, disobeying direct orders, and insolence. In March 2013 he was transferred to Pontiac Correctional Center to serve a lengthy accumulated period of disciplinary segregation resulting from consecutive penalties for multiple conduct violations.

Johnson was classified as a seriously mentally ill inmate and was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder

, depression, bipolar disorder, poor impulse control, panic disorder, anxiety disorder, and excoriation disorder (compulsive scratching). He also has a history of suicide threats or attempts. When he arrived at Pontiac, a psychiatrist employed by Wexford, the prison system's healthcare contractor, reviewed his records, evaluated him, and developed a treatment plan that included several psychotropic medications.

Johnson's misconduct continued while he was in segregation at Pontiac. Between March 2013 and August 2016, the time period at issue here, he accumulated more than three dozen conduct violations, all but one classified as "major." These included assaults on staff and other inmates (repeated spitting and throwing bodily fluids); possession of contraband (including, once, a piece of mirror); disobeying orders; impairing surveillance; and throwing urine or feces out of his cell (among other violations). For this new misconduct, he accrued additional periods of time in disciplinary segregation, which when added to his already-accumulated segregation time meant that Johnson spent almost three and a half years—from March 2013 to August 2016—in solitary confinement. (He was also sanctioned with restrictions on his yard access, which we'll discuss in a moment.)

Johnson never stayed long in any one cell. During his time in segregation, Johnson transferred cells roughly 40 times. His stays typically lasted under 14 days. Some were longer, with eight stays lasting between 15 to 30 days and four stays lasting between 30 to 60 days. Johnson's longest stay in a single cell was 150 days, which happened once. The reasons for the cell transfers varied. Many were routine, some were disciplinary, and some were for medical or other nondisciplinary reasons.

Johnson's pro se complaint alleged Eighth Amendment claims under § 1983 for deprivations that can be grouped into three categories: (1) loss of yard access; (2) poor cell conditions; and (3) inadequate treatment of his mental illness. Because Johnson's case has markedly changed on appeal, he has largely abandoned the claims that were litigated below, so a brief summary of each category will suffice. We add pertinent factual detail drawn from the record at summary judgment, giving Johnson the benefit of reasonable inferences in his favor.

An inmate in segregation is permitted to exercise outside his cell for a few hours each week, either in an outdoor exercise area (in a small secured cage) or in an indoor recreation room. These out-of-cell exercise sessions are referred to as "yard" privileges. Yard privileges may be revoked as punishment for major misconduct, and Johnson incurred many such sanctions. Each of his individual yard restrictions ranged from 30 to 90 days, depending on the severity of his misconduct. But the sheer volume of his violations meant that he was under a yard restriction of some duration from April to July 2013 and then almost continuously from about January 2014 through August 2016, for a cumulative total of about three years. (The prison disciplinary records are not clear about the precise start and end dates for each restriction period.)

While under yard restrictions, an inmate is permitted only one hour of out-of-cell exercise per month. Johnson claimed that this too was often withheld for unknown reasons. He contended that between June 2015 and June 2016 he was not permitted any yard access at all.

Johnson also alleged that he was subjected to certain unhealthy cell conditions. He claimed that his cells were often filthy and at times became overheated when temperatures rose in the summer and air circulation was poor. Inmates in segregation were given a half cup of cleaning solution once a week to clean their cells but that was inadequate, especially when he smeared his cell with excrement (or a prior occupant did so). To ameliorate the summertime heat, officers placed an industrial fan at the end of the gallery to increase airflow. They also gave inmates a cup of ice each day. These measures, too, were inadequate. Johnson claimed that the temperature in his cell was as high as 90–100 degrees on an unspecified number of summertime days.

Johnson complained to guards three times in the summer of 2016 about the heat in his cell and was twice relocated in response. Johnson also alleged that noise from other inmates screaming and pounding on their cell doors contributed to the poor conditions in the segregation unit, making it hard to sleep and causing him to suffer headaches and "frayed nerves."

Finally, Johnson challenged the adequacy of his mental-health treatment. From almost the moment of his arrival at Pontiac in March 2013, his compliance with treatment was sporadic, and he vacillated between periods of stability and instability. As noted, he was evaluated when he arrived in segregation, and a treatment plan was put in place. The record reflects that he was regularly monitored by Wexford physicians and other mental-health professionals. Sometimes he agreed to meet with them, sometimes not. His medication regimen was adjusted many times, especially when he refused to take his prescribed medication or complained of side effects. From March 2013 to August 2016, Wexford psychiatrists prescribed...

To continue reading

Request your trial
20 cases
  • United States v. Cox
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • November 23, 2022
    ...said, "pro se litigants are generally subject to the same waiver rules as those who are represented by counsel." Johnson v. Prentice , 29 F.4th 895, 903 (7th Cir. 2022).In United States v. Young , 955 F.3d 608 (7th Cir. 2020), this Court rejected an argument like the one Cox makes now. The ......
  • Hoskins v. Adams
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Southern District of Illinois
    • July 31, 2023
    ...... evaluate the objective component of a complaint when a. prisoner has been in multiple cells. Johnson v. Seiter, 29 F.4th 895, 904 (7th Cir. 2022). This Court. concurs. Hoskins was in multiple cells and had at least 3. cell mates ......
  • Dawson v. Dugan
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • August 23, 2023
    ...the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw that inference.'" Johnson v. Prentice, 29 F.4th 895, 904 (7th Cir. 2022) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)). This is known as the deliberate indifference standard. Thus, an ......
  • Smith v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • June 9, 2022
    ......          . MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER. . .           SHARON. JOHNSON COLEMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE. . .          Plaintiff. Antoine Smith, by counsel, brings Eighth Amendment ... nor any evidence that an institutional policy caused such a. violation.” Johnson v. Prentice", 29 F.4th 895,. 905 (7th Cir. 2022). Accordingly, the Court grants. Wexford's summary judgment motion. . .         \xC2"......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT