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Civil Rights — cruel and unusual punishment

United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit


Civil Rights — cruel and unusual punishment

Where a prisoner alleged that a prison’s lockdowns were imposed for impermissible reasons, the complaint should not have been dismissed.

“Turley argues that frequent lockdowns for substantial periods of time have deprived him of exercise and caused him various health issues. The State’s response is that Turley has failed to allege a constitutionally sufficient injury, especially since no individual lockdown exceeded 90 days, and the defendants were not deliberately indifferent to Turley’s or the other inmates’ situation. The district court dismissed this claim because it thought that Turley had not listed specific periods of confinement, but this conclusion is incorrect. The State relies heavily on Pearson v. Ramos, 237 F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir. 2001), for the notion that there exists an ironclad rule that a denial of yard privileges shorter than 90 consecutive days cannot be the basis for an Eighth Amendment claim. However, the State has misconstrued this rule. In Pearson, we stated that we thought ‘it a reasonable rule that a denial of yard privileges for no more than 90 days at a stretch is not cruel and unusual punishment.’ Id. at 884. However, we were careful to explain that the ‘norm of proportionality’ would guide the acceptable duration of lockdown. Even a lockdown not exceeding 90 days could violate that norm if it were ‘impos[ed] . . . for some utterly trivial infraction of the prison’s disciplinary rules.’ Id. at 885. Pearson focused on the period of confinement for a single prisoner in response to that prisoner’s specific actions, so that the prison’s decision ‘[t]o confine in “solitary” a prisoner who behaves like a wild beast whenever he is let out of his cell is the least cruel measure that occurs to us for dealing with such a person.’ Id. In contrast, here we are confronted with a pattern of prison-wide lockdowns, which Turley alleges occurred for flimsy reasons or no reason at all.

Affirmed in part, and Reversed in part.

11-1491 Turley v. Rednour

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Reagan, J., Cudahy, J.

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