Parrish v. Johnson, No. 84-1642

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore KEITH and BOGGS, Circuit Judges, and CELEBREZZE; CELEBREZZE
Citation800 F.2d 600
PartiesGeorge PARRISH and Charles Giles, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Perry JOHNSON, Charles Anderson, K.L. Cole, and Clarence Turner, Defendants-Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 84-1642
Decision Date05 September 1986

Page 600

800 F.2d 600
George PARRISH and Charles Giles, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Perry JOHNSON, Charles Anderson, K.L. Cole, and Clarence
Turner, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 84-1642.
United States Court of Appeals,
Sixth Circuit.
Argued June 2, 1986.
Decided Sept. 5, 1986.

Page 602

Larry Bennett (argued), Detroit, Mich., Jody LeWitter, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen. of Mich. Lansing, Mich., Thomas A. Kulick (argued), for defendants-appellees.

Before KEITH and BOGGS, Circuit Judges, and CELEBREZZE, Senior Circuit Judge.

CELEBREZZE, Senior Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs-appellants George Parrish and Charles Giles appeal from a district court's decision finding that Parrish's and Giles' conditions of confinement were unconstitutional and that defendant-appellee Clarence Turner subjected Parrish to cruel and unusual punishment and violated Parrish's First Amendment rights. 1 On appeal, Parrish contends that the district court erred in awarding only nominal damages for the punishment he endured and Giles argues that Turner violated his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. We reverse.

Since the facts of this case are critical to the resolution of the issues raised before this Court, we set out the district court's factual findings in detail. 2 Both Parrish and Giles were paraplegics incarcerated at the State Prison for Southern Michigan. As a result of their condition, both men exhibited a diminished control over their bladder and bowel functions and, consequently, would frequently soil themselves. While Giles was able to clean himself, Parrish, who suffered from a fused hip joint, needed assistance to change. Assistance, however, due to both staff shortages and intentional neglect on the part of prison personnel, was often slow in arriving forcing Parrish, on a regular basis, to sit in his own feces for several hours. Besides being extremely unpleasant, this situation was medically dangerous because Parrish risked infecting his decubitis ulcers. Although Giles could clean himself, mismanagement and neglect rendered this ability nugatory; Giles was either not supplied with anything with which to clean himself or was given one small rag which quickly became soiled and unusable. Thus, like Parrish, Giles would routinely sit in his

Page 603

own waste for significant periods of time. These deplorable hygenic conditions were exacerbated by verbal degradations, sporadic assaults, and acts of malfeasance and nonfeasance committed by Turner, a prison guard, against Parrish and Giles.

Turner aggravated the unsanitary conditions of Parrish's confinement by habitually refusing to relay or procrastinating in transmitting Parrish's requests for aid to the nurses. Turner also committed several assaults upon Parrish. On one occasion, Turner brandished a knife in order to extort cigarettes from Parrish and, on another, in what at best could be described as a bizarre episode, Turner while standing on top of a table shouting obscenities waved a knife at Parrish. Turner further enhanced Parrish's suffering by placing Parrish's food tray in positions in which Parrish was unable to retrieve it and by serving the food accompanied with taunts that he had contaminated the food with venereal disease (a disease which Turner, in fact, had). Finally, Turner also interfered with Parrish's private phone conversations and personal mail: he would interrupt Parrish's phone calls by loudly speaking obscenities into the receiver and capriciously refuse to distribute and open and read Parrish's legal and personal mail. Giles received similar treatment.

Turner was equally remiss in relaying Giles' requests for care and twice accosted Giles with a knife. The first assault occurred on an elevator when Turner, for no apparent reason, pulled a knife and waved it in front of Giles' face. Turner repeated this action approximately one month later in order to extort potato chips and cookies from Giles. "Quite frequently" Turner ridiculed and tormented Giles by calling him, among other things, a "crippled bastard" who should be dead and telling Giles that he had defiled his food with venereal disease. Finally, Turner randomly opened and read Giles' personal mail.

Based upon the foregoing factual findings, the district court concluded that Parrish's and Giles' conditions of confinement were unconstitutional and that Turner's conduct had violated Parrish's First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. However, the district court judge refused to find that Turner had violated Giles' constitutional rights because Giles had not been subjected to the full panoply of Turner's misbehavior and had failed to demonstrate a special animus. Turning to the appropriate remedy for the constitutional violations, the district court judge reasoned that since injunctive relief was more appropriate than damages and since Parrish's injuries were not "lasting or severe," Parrish was only entitled to an award of nominal damages. This appeal ensued. Before proceeding to the damage questions presented by this case, we first consider whether the district court erred in holding that Turner's conduct did not violate Giles' First and Eighth Amendment rights.

I. Giles' First and Eighth Amendment Claims

A. First Amendment

Giles testified that Turner would randomly open and read his personal mail and that Turner would also taunt him by waving the open mail in front of him. Giles contends that this conduct violated his First Amendment rights.

While prisoners have some First Amendment rights in receiving mail, see Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 822, 94 S.Ct. 2800, 2804, 41 L.Ed.2d 495 (1974); Meadows v. Hopkins, 713 F.2d 206, 209-10 (6th Cir.1983), it is clear that prison officials may place reasonable restrictions upon these rights, Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 544-52, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1876-81, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979). In order to maintain prison security and to check for contraband, prison officials may, pursuant to a uniform and evenly-applied policy, open an inmate's incoming mail. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 574-77, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 2983-85, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974); Bumgarner v. Bloodworth, 768 F.2d 297, 301 (8th Cir.1985) (per curiam). Prison security may also require that limitations be placed upon the type and amount of mail a

Page 604

prisoner may receive. See Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 129-31, 97 S.Ct. 2532, 2539-41, 53 L.Ed.2d 629 (1977). Yet, a prison official's discretion is not unlimited in this regard and several courts have held that mail relating to a prisoner's legal matters may not be read and may only be opened in the prisoner's presence, Taylor v. Sterrett, 532 F.2d 462, 477 (5th Cir.1976), Bach v. Illinois, 504 F.2d 1100, 1102 (7th Cir.) (per curiam), cert. denied, 418 U.S. 910, 94 S.Ct. 3202, 41 L.Ed.2d 1156 (1974); Smith v. Robbins, 454 F.2d 696 (1st Cir.1972); see Harrod v. Halford, 773 F.2d 234, 236 n. 1 (8th Cir.1985) (per curiam), cert. denied --- U.S. ----, 106 S.Ct. 2254, 90 L.Ed.2d 699 (1986); but see Sostre v. McGinnis, 442 F.2d 178, 201 (2d Cir.1971) (en banc), cert. denied, 404 U.S. 1049, 92 S.Ct. 719, 30 L.Ed.2d 740 (1972), 3 and at least one court has extended these protections to media mail, Guajardo v. Estelle, 580 F.2d 748, 759 (5th Cir.1978); see also Nolan v. Fitzpatrick, 451 F.2d 545, 547 (1st Cir.1971). Further, the burden remains upon the prison officials to put forth legitimate reasons for interfering with a prisoner's incoming mail. See Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 413, 94 S.Ct. 1800, 1811, 40 L.Ed.2d 224 (1974); Brooks v. Seiter, 779 F.2d 1177, 1180-81 (6th Cir.1985).

In this case, we are not confronted with a regularly applied regulation requiring the opening of all prisoners' incoming mail, see Meadows, 713 F.2d at 208-09, or a random interference with a prisoner's mail based upon a reasonable suspicion that the prison's security was being jeopardized. Rather, this case concerns Turner's arbitrary opening and reading of Giles' personal mail. No justification--other than harassment--has been forwarded for Turner's conduct. A capricious interference with a prisoner's incoming mail based upon a guard's personal prejudices violates the First Amendment. Cf. Brooks, 779 F.2d at 1180. Accordingly, we hold that the district court erred in denying Giles' First Amendment claim and remand this claim for further proceedings. 4

B. Eighth Amendment 5

The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners against the imposition of "cruel and unusual punishment." U.S. Const. amend. VIII. By definition, therefore, not every intrusion upon a prisoner's bodily integrity will rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation. See Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1033 (2d Cir.) ("Not every push or shove ... violates a prisoner's constitutional rights."), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1033, 94 S.Ct. 462, 38 L.Ed.2d 324 (1973). The maintenance of prison security and discipline may often require that prisoners be subjected to physical contact which at common law would be actionable as an assault or battery and which, in retrospect, may have been excessive. But, the good faith use of physical force in pursuit of valid penological or institutional goals will rarely, if ever, violate the Eighth Amendment. See Whitley v. Albers, --- U.S. ----, 106 S.Ct. 1078, 1084, 89 L.Ed.2d 251 (1986); Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346, 101 S.Ct. 2392, 2398, 69 L.Ed.2d 59 (1981). A violation of the Eighth Amendment nevertheless will occur if the infliction of pain upon a prisoner is both unnecessary and wanton. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103, 97 S.Ct. 285, 290, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976). In determining whether a prisoner's

Page 605

claim rises to this level, the reason or motivation for the conduct, the type and excessiveness of the force used, and the extent of injury inflicted should be considered. Cf. Lewis v. Downs, 774 F.2d 711, 713 (6th Cir.1985) (per curiam). This analysis,...

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234 practice notes
  • Lavado v. Keohane, No. 91-6442
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • April 22, 1993
    ...v. Johnson, 977 F.2d 996, 1012 (6th Cir.1992), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 1415, 122 L.Ed.2d 786 (1993); Parrish v. Johnson, 800 F.2d 600, 603 (6th Cir.1986), prison officials may open prisoners' incoming mail pursuant to a uniform and evenly applied policy with an eye to maintai......
  • Cochran v. Pinchak, No. 02-1047.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • March 15, 2005
    ...Eighth Amendment claim regarding allegations for state prison's alleged failure to provide adequate bathing facility); Parrish v. Johnson, 800 F.2d 600, 603, 605 (6th Cir.1986) (holding paraplegic prisoners were entitled to damages for state prison guard's assault of them with a knife and f......
  • Richards v. Washington, Case No. 2:20-cv-194
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • May 6, 2021
    ...and forced them to engage in sexual conduct. Not every shove or restraint gives rise to a constitutional violation, Parrish v. Johnson, 800 F.2d 600, 604 (6th Cir. 1986); see also Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9 (holding that "[n]ot every push or shove . . . violates a prisoner's constitutional right......
  • Mangiaracina v. Penzone, No. 14-15271
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • March 3, 2017
    ...constitutional torts. The majority borrows the phrase from the Sixth Circuit, where it apparently originated in Parrish v. Johnson , 800 F.2d 600 (6th Cir. 1986). See id. at 604 ("[T]his case concerns Turner's arbitrary opening and reading of Giles' personal mail.... A capricious interferen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
234 cases
  • Lavado v. Keohane, No. 91-6442
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • April 22, 1993
    ...v. Johnson, 977 F.2d 996, 1012 (6th Cir.1992), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 1415, 122 L.Ed.2d 786 (1993); Parrish v. Johnson, 800 F.2d 600, 603 (6th Cir.1986), prison officials may open prisoners' incoming mail pursuant to a uniform and evenly applied policy with an eye to maintai......
  • Cochran v. Pinchak, No. 02-1047.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • March 15, 2005
    ...Eighth Amendment claim regarding allegations for state prison's alleged failure to provide adequate bathing facility); Parrish v. Johnson, 800 F.2d 600, 603, 605 (6th Cir.1986) (holding paraplegic prisoners were entitled to damages for state prison guard's assault of them with a knife and f......
  • Richards v. Washington, Case No. 2:20-cv-194
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • May 6, 2021
    ...and forced them to engage in sexual conduct. Not every shove or restraint gives rise to a constitutional violation, Parrish v. Johnson, 800 F.2d 600, 604 (6th Cir. 1986); see also Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9 (holding that "[n]ot every push or shove . . . violates a prisoner's constitutional right......
  • Mangiaracina v. Penzone, No. 14-15271
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • March 3, 2017
    ...constitutional torts. The majority borrows the phrase from the Sixth Circuit, where it apparently originated in Parrish v. Johnson , 800 F.2d 600 (6th Cir. 1986). See id. at 604 ("[T]his case concerns Turner's arbitrary opening and reading of Giles' personal mail.... A capricious interferen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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