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Smith-Bey v. CCA/CTF

March 29, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge


Plaintiff Clarence Smith-Bey is an inmate at the Correctional Treatment Facility ("CTF"), a jail facility located in Washington, D.C., and privately operated by Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA") pursuant to a contract with the District of Columbia. Food services at CTF are provided by Aramark Food Corporation ("Aramark").*fn1 Mr. Smith-Bey has named CTF, CCA, and Aramark as defendants in this case, along with CTF/CCA employees Desandra Peace, Ifeanyi Akas, Shameka Bivens, and Walter Fulton.

Mr. Smith-Bey, proceeding pro se, alleges that the kitchen at CTA is so poorly maintained and infested with vermin that being forced to eat food prepared there amounts to cruel and unusual punishment inflicted in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He brings his claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages in the amount of $750,000. Two motions to dismiss, one brought by Aramark and the other by all defendants except Aramark ("the CCA defendants"), are currently pending before the Court. Also pending are the following motions filed by Mr. Smith-Bey: (1) a motion "to correct title of defendant[ Aramark's] name," (2) a motion "to grant relief from CCA/CTF and Aramark Correction[al] Services," and (3) a motion "for this Court to respond." For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the motion to dismiss filed by the CCA defendants and deny all other pending motions as moot.*fn2


According to the complaint, on February 3, 2009, Mr. Smith-Bey was eating his dinner in CTF when he found a dead cockroach in his food. See Compl. at 5. In accordance with the prison's internal grievance procedures, he submitted an "informal resolution form" to prison administrators on February 6, 2009, stating that "I had a roach in my beans and Spanish rice Tuesday. I did tell the officer, I threw up my food by putting my right index finger down my throat. The officer['s] name is Officer Akas." Def. Mot., Exhibit 1, Attachment B.

Mr. Smith-Bey alleges that on February 18, 2009, he found a second dead cockroach in his food. He submitted a second informal resolution form, stating, "I had a dead roach in my oatmeal, I notice[d] it after eating half of the oatmeal. I almost ate the roach. This is the second time. Officer Peace witness[ed] the roach on the spoon when I showed her." Def. Mot., Exhibit 1, Attachment C. A prison official responded on the same form by noting that "Terminix pest control spray[s] in the culinary area once a week. All food trays are washed at 140 to 160 degrees. All tray carts are washed with hot water and liquid sanitizer. And the culinary area is cleaned and sanitize[d] after every meal line." See id.

On February 26, 2009, Mr. Smith-Bey submitted a third informal resolution form, stating that "[o]n Feb. 18 I was eating my oatmeal and discovered a [r]oach after eating half of the oatmeal. I showed the roach to Officer Peace, she made a [n]otation in the log [b]ook. This was the second time in two weeks period. The [f]irst time was Feb. 3, the second was Feb. 18, 200[9]. The [f]irst time [was] officer Akas." Compl., Ex. 2 at 1. A prison official responded on the same form by noting, "I apologize for this unfortunate incident. We continue to work with Terminex Weekly (the[y] come to spray and fog the culinary on Wednesday). Inmates who experience problems [] are certainly not expected to eat the food. Please show the tray to the officer as you did and you will be re[-]served. Thank you for making us aware of this incident." Id. at 2.

Pursuant to CTF policy, the next step in the grievance process after submitting an informal resolution form is submission of a formal grievance. See Def. Mot., Exhibit 1 ¶ 8. Mr. Smith-Bey did not complete a formal grievance form after submitting any of the three informal resolution forms that he filled out, but the parties disagree as to why. The defendants contend that plaintiff was offered a formal grievance form, but declined to accept it. See id. ¶ 15. Mr. Smith-Bey alleges that he was never given the form although he requested it on at least three separate occasions. Pl. Resp. at 7. He maintains that CTF intentionally prevented him from completing the administrative process. Id., Exs. C-E.

Having failed, for whatever reason, to exhaust CTF's internal grievance process, Mr. Smith-Bey filed the complaint in this action on April 15, 2009. The first part of his complaint appears on a form provided for use by prisoners who wish to allege a violation of their civil rights. See Compl. at 1. In response to the prompt, "State here [as] briefly as possible the facts of your case," Mr. Smith-Bey wrote:

On Feb. 3, [20]09 I was eating Dinner, after eating halfway through my meal I located a dead roach in my beans. I told Officer Akas, and he said the roaches are real bad in the kitchen.

On Feb. 18th I was eating my breakfast, and after eating almost all of my oatmeal, a roach dead was found in my food. This was a large roach, I showed it to Officer Peace who was on duty. She log it in the logbook, and [two other inmates] also are witness[es].

Id. at 5. In a handwritten complaint attached to his form complaint, Mr. Smith-Bey again described the two occasions on which he had allegedly discovered a roach in his food, but this time expanded his claims to include complaints about the condition of the kitchen: "The food cart that house[s] the food trays, it should have a door that keeps the air and roaches out. The mice and roaches come all upon the assembly line when preparing the food." Id. at 7.

Attached to the complaints was a handwritten letter addressed to this Court by Mr. Smith-Bey. In that letter the plaintiff did not mention finding a dead roach in his food, but instead made even broader claims regarding the condition of the kitchen at CTF: "The culinary is a health hassard [sic] w/ roaches, mice, bugs, foul smell. No regard for HACCP guidelines. Temperature log/guidelines. Eating equipment a disaster." Compl., Ex. A at 1. He added, "Roaches and mice and other bugs still control the kitchen, along with poor food handling skills." Id.

In July of 2009, Mr. Smith-Bey filed a motion "to grant relief from CCA/CTF and Aramark Correction Services LLC" in which his claims evolved further. He contended that "the kitchen is infested with insects, roaches, flies, spiders, daddy long legs, mice, rats, etc. The insects get in the food cart, and they also climb up on the assembly line where the food is being prepared.... CCA ...

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