In this claim, claimant seeks damages based upon actions taken by correction
officers at Mohawk Correctional Facility ("Mohawk") at a time when claimant was
an inmate at the facility, and was placed in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU")
under a special drug watch. The trial of this claim took place on November 7,
2005 at Marcy Correctional Facility.
Testimony and documentary evidence introduced at trial establishes that on July
27, 2002, at approximately 4:10 p.m., claimant was admitted to SHU at Mohawk
when he was suspected of smuggling and possessing drugs. Claimant testified
that when he was placed in his cell at SHU, he was treated inhumanely, and was
not provided with any towels, wash cloths, toothpaste, toothbrush or toilet
paper, and there were no sheets, blankets, pillows, or pillow cases for his bed.
In essence, he testified that he was provided with only a mattress on a bed
frame, and that this mattress contained fecal matter and was covered with urine
stains. He also testified that there was no running water in his cell.
Claimant testified that pursuant to Directive 4910 issued by the Department of
Correctional Services, he was entitled to receipt of these items upon his
admission to SHU, and he seeks money damages based upon his failure to receive
Claimant produced a copy of the "Mohawk Correctional Facility Special Housing
Unit Initial Issue Form" dated July 27, 2002 (see Claimant's Exhibit 2), which
lists items that are apparently provided to inmates upon their admission to SHU.
This form was not signed by claimant, and claimant testified that he refused to
sign this form because he did not receive the listed items.
Claimant acknowledged that he had previously filed a grievance with regard to
the missing items. This administrative grievance was denied, as was claimant's
Correction Officer John Worden was called as a witness by the State. He
testified that he was assigned to the SHU at Mohawk in July, 2002, when claimant
was admitted to that unit. He testified that inmates are permitted very few
items while in their cells during a drug watch, to prevent them from hiding any
drugs or contraband. He testified that the inmate is provided with a bedpan and
a robe upon admission. He also testified that before an inmate is received in
the SHU for a special drug watch, the cell is first cleaned and then inspected
by an officer to insure that there is no other contraband present. Officer
Worden further testified that if a mattress is soiled, a new mattress can be
obtained by the inmate upon his request.
He further testified that while an inmate is on special drug watch, the
correction officer assigned to the unit will observe the inmate at least once
every 15 minutes, and document his observations in the facility logbook. The
logbook reflects any requests made by the inmate, whether agreed to or not.
In this particular matter, Officer Worden reviewed copies of the logbook
entries pertaining to inmate Johnson (see Defendant's Exhibit E; see also
Claimant's Exhibit 1) covering the period from July 27, 2002 at 4:10 p.m. (when
claimant was first admitted under the special drug watch) through July 29, 2002
at 4:30 p.m. (when claimant was taken off the drug watch). The first reference
in the logbook of any request made by claimant occurred at 3:35 p.m. on July 28,
2002, when he requested a cloth to clean feces from his mattress. Later that
day, at 5:50 p.m., the logbook entries reflect that a Sergeant Weber advised
claimant that he would be receiving a new mattress, and the logbook entries
establish that a new mattress was provided at what appears to be 7:30 p.m. that
Correction Officer Worden also testified that upon admission, claimant is
permitted to examine his cell, and in this case, claimant signed a statement
acknowledging that he found his cell in good condition (see Claimant's Exhibit
With regard to that aspect of this claim in which claimant alleges that he did
not receive items of necessity when he was first admitted to SHU, the evidence
at trial establishes that this issue was previously addressed in a grievance
brought by claimant at Mohawk, which determined that claimant had received
appropriate items upon admission, as required by Directive 4910. At trial,
claimant offered only his own testimony that he did not receive all appropriate
items, and asserts that his refusal to sign the Initial Issue Form is additional
proof that he did not receive these items. The Court finds, however, that such
testimony is insufficient to establish by a preponderance of the evidence,
claimant's cause of action that he did not receive appropriate personal hygiene
items upon his admission to SHU.
With regard to claimant's allegations that his cell was in a filthy condition,
and that his mattress contained fecal matter and urine stains, the Court relies
upon the statement signed by claimant upon his admission to SHU (see Claimant's
Exhibit 2), in which he acknowledges that he has "personally checked my cell and
found it to be in good condition". This statement is buttressed by the fact
that no complaints regarding the condition of his cell, and in particular the
condition of his mattress, were made by claimant until 3:35 p.m. on July 28,
2002, approximately one full day after his admission to SHU.
The Court credits the testimony of Officer Worden that cells must be cleaned
and inspected prior to the admission of an inmate, especially on a special drug
watch, since the State is most concerned in closely monitoring the inmate who is
the subject of the watch.
Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that claimant has failed to establish
his allegations, by a preponderance of the evidence, with respect to the
condition of his cell and mattress.
Based upon the foregoing, therefore, Claim No. 106659 is hereby dismissed.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.