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Boland v. Bouffard

United States District Court, D. Maine

July 20, 2018

CALEB BOLAND, in his capacity as the Personal Representative of the Estate of Micah Boland, Plaintiff,
v.
RODNEY BOUFFARD, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JON D. LEVY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On February 28, 2014, Richard Allen Stahursky brutally murdered Micah Boland while they were both confined as inmates at the Maine State Prison. In this federal action, Plaintiff Caleb Boland, the Personal Representative of Micah Boland's estate, alleges that the prison's Warden, Rodney Bouffard, its Deputy Warden, Michael Tausek, and one of its Unit Managers, Antonio Mendez (collectively, the “Defendants”), violated the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution by failing to protect Micah Boland from Stahursky. See ECF No. 34. The Defendants move for summary judgment (ECF No. 56) pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) and Local Rule 56, arguing that the Plaintiff cannot prove that (1) the Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to a significant risk of serious harm to Micah Boland; and (2) even if the Defendants were aware of a significant risk of serious harm, they took reasonable steps to avert that risk. For the reasons that follow, I deny the Motion.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         For purposes of summary judgment the following facts, taken from the parties' statements of material facts (ECF Nos. 57, 60, 85), are viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party (here, the Plaintiff). A complete recitation of the voluminous relevant facts is required to assess the Motion using the applicable legal standards.

         A. The Parties

         Warden Bouffard and Deputy Warden Tausek were hired by the Maine State Prison in 2013. At the time, the Department of Corrections was seeking to reduce the number of prisoners kept in segregation, and Deputy Warden Tausek was tasked with developing programs aimed at decreasing recidivism. Unit Manager Mendez began working as the co-manager of the prison's “Close Unit, ” where both Stahursky and Boland were housed at the time of the murder in 2014, and had previously worked for the prison in other roles.

         Micah Boland was committed to the prison in 2008 following a conviction for sexual assault involving a victim under the age of twelve. He was a quiet and peaceful inmate, and he was never disciplined while in the prison.

         Richard Stahursky was committed to the Maine State Prison in 2002, and is subject to a 100-year consecutive federal sentence as well as a state sentence, although the record does not reveal the nature of his underlying conviction or the length of his state sentence. Throughout his incarceration, Stahursky repeatedly engaged in violent behavior, including multiple stabbings and assaults. The stabbings, which occurred in 2003, 2004, and 2010, each involved using a shank to stab an inmate victim who Stahursky believed was a sex offender. The non-stabbing assaults occurred in 2003, 2005, and 2011, and Stahursky injured several corrections officers during the 2011 assault.

         Danny Picard, who worked as a Unit Manager in the prison from early 2012 to July 2013, believed that Stahursky was one of the three most violent prisoners in the prison. Prior to Micah Boland's murder, Picard, in his capacity as the Unit Manager of Stahursky's housing unit, repeatedly told Warden Bouffard and Deputy Warden Tausek that Stahursky was manipulative, controlling, and vindictive. He also told Warden Bouffard and Deputy Warden Tausek that Stahursky only complied with orders when it would benefit him, and that Stahursky kept his word when he threatened to harm himself or others.

         B. The Housing Units

         The prison has three housing units: the Special Management Unit (the “SMU”), the Close Unit, and the Medium Unit. Unit Managers oversee each Unit, and the Unit Managers all report directly to the Deputy Warden (here, Tausek). The two relevant Units are the SMU and the Close Unit. The SMU is a segregated setting that houses inmates who threaten the safety of other inmates. The Close Unit is a general population housing unit in which inmates are allowed out of their cells during the day. It has six “Pods, ” identified as A through F.

         C. Stahursky's History Prior to His 2013 Transfer to the Close Unit's C-Pod

         As already noted, prior to 2014 Stahursky stabbed three fellow inmates who he believed were sex offenders. Stahursky told Picard that he had been sexually abused as a child, and that he took it upon himself to ensure that sex offenders paid a price for their crimes beyond serving out their sentences.

         Stahursky also had a history of threatening violence, possessing contraband weapons, assaulting other inmates and corrections officers, and engaging in self-harm. For example, in January 2013, Stahursky was found in possession of an eight-inch sharpened metal shank and was consequently moved to the SM U.Stahursky told officials that he planned to stab several inmates who had reported him for having a shank, but never identified his intended targets. While Stahursky was in the SMU, prison officials found another eight-inch sharpened shank in his cell. While housed in the SMU, Stahursky also committed the following aggressive or violent acts: he threatened to stab another inmate; he jammed his cell door and made deep cuts in his own arm causing arterial spray; he threatened to “cut up” a corrections officer; and he cut a three-inch long, half-inch deep cut in his arm. In connection with the last incident, Stahursky wrote “It's A War” on the wall in blood, and said that he would continue doing this every day until he “got what he wanted.” ECF No. 85 at ¶ 15.

         It is undisputed that Picard - the sole Unit Manger in the SMU from early 2012 to July 2013 - told Warden Bouffard and Deputy Warden Tausek on multiple occasions that Stahursky acted out violently when he did not get his way. It is also undisputed that from the time Stahursky entered the SMU in January 2013 through July 2013, Warden Bouffard believed that Stahursky would be a threat to other inmates' safety if released into the general population.

         Stahursky was moved from the SMU to C-Pod on July 9, 2013, based on a recommendation by Deputy Warden Tausek which was approved by Warden Bouffard. Generally, prisoners leaving the SMU were placed in C-Pod because it was the most closely watched Pod in the Close Unit. Before recommending Stahursky's release, Deputy Warden Tausek reviewed Stahursky's incident and disciplinary history, and was aware that he had been placed in the SMU because he posed a threat to other inmates. Before approving Stahursky's release, Warden Bouffard familiarized himself with Stahursky's history and was aware that Stahursky was a safety risk and had a history of possessing weapons. Warden Bouffard later testified that Stahursky was released “in a very slow, deliberate way” because he “was probably one of the first inmates that I was somewhat concerned about in a significant way.” ECF No. 57-1 at 6.

         Picard disagreed with the decision to release Stahursky, believing that Stahursky needed more time in the SMU before being released into the general population. Stahursky himself was surprised that he had been released from the SMU, testifying later that due to the threat he posed to other inmates, he “should never have been out in population, period.” ECF No. 85 at ¶ 67.

         While in C-Pod, Stahursky's movements were highly restricted: he was locked in his cell while other inmates were out of their cells; a corrections officer was present when he was out of his cell; he was fed in his cell rather than in the dining hall; and he had an escort at all times when he left C-Pod. Thus, Stahursky was not permitted any unsupervised access to other prisoners. Also, because he had been “acting up” while in C-Pod, he was not permitted near work tools that could be turned into weapons.

         D. Events Following Stahursky's Transfer from C-Pod to B-Pod

         The prison began painting and making other improvements to the C-Pod shortly after Stahursky's transfer to it. Because Stahursky was not permitted to be near work tools, he was transferred out of C-Pod (the most closely watched Pod in the Close Unit) to B-Pod, which was considered an “honor pod.” Generally, B-Pod inmates were the best behaved inmates in the Close Unit, and the surveillance level in B-Pod reflected that: corrections officers made rounds hourly instead of every half hour; no officers were stationed inside for up to two hours at a time when there were 12 or fewer inmates in the Pod; and there was only one surveillance camera, which was monitored from outside the Pod. When Stahursky was transferred to B-Pod, prison officials planned to return him to the C-Pod within two or three weeks, after the work was completed, although that never happened.

         The Plaintiff contends - and the Defendants dispute - that there were more sex offenders housed in B-Pod than in other areas of the prison. Ordinarily, prison officials consider an inmate's hatred for sex offenders when making housing decisions to ensure inmate safety. It is undisputed that Stahursky initially opposed his transfer to B-Pod because, as he put it, “they're all a bunch of sex offenders in there.” ECF No. 85 at ¶ 42. Picard knew that Stahursky did not want to be placed in B-Pod and he stated his concerns about returning Stahursky to the general population - and the B-Pod in particular - to Warden Bouffard and Deputy Warden Tausek whenever they met and discussed Stahursky. Picard believed that Stahursky presented an increased risk of violence while he was in B-Pod because he would be left unsupervised for up to two hours at a time.

         On July 25, 2013, after a few weeks in B-Pod, Stahursky requested more freedom to walk around the Pod. On July 27, he was given an unpaid cleaning job, which gave him access to paint scrapers, rollers, and screwdrivers, which could all be converted into weapons. On July 30, Picard e-mailed Deputy Warden Tausek, Warden Bouffard, and other prison officials to discuss Stahursky's July 25 request. He wrote, in relevant part, that “[Stahursky] wants regular [] recreation time and more that we cannot safely do. He is making threats to act up again (reportedly) and these are why he should have stayed in [the SMU] until a full no limits plan was made for him.” Id. at ¶ 52.

         Despite Picard's reservations, on July 31 Stahursky's restrictions were relaxed and he was permitted to be out of his cell with other inmates from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Although Picard signed off on the change he did not agree with it, and he made that clear to Warden Bouffard and Deputy Warden Tausek. Five days later, Picard resigned from the prison, in part because he felt that his input had been disregarded. On August 28, ...


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