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Judge: Prisoner suit can proceed

January 1, 2008
 

A federal judge has decided a state prison inmate can proceed with his lawsuit against a Department of Correction official and food service provider, claiming that both denied him enough food to stay healthy and went against a medically prescribed diet restricting onions.

U.S. District Judge William Lee in South Bend ordered March 11 that Joshua Ketchem be allowed to proceed with his suit filed in January 2007. The case is Joshua Ketchum v. J. David Donahue, et al., No. 3:07-CV-316 WL.

A prisoner at Westville Control Unit incarcerated on several felony convictions including attempted murder, Ketchem alleges that food service provider Aramark Food Service and Superintendent William Wilson have purposely influenced his meal plans as a form of cruel punishment. He claims that purposely reduced food portions have led to unhealthy weight loss and weakened his immune system, and that both defendants have intentionally served him food containing onions, which he is allergic to and a prison physician has ordered not be included in his diet.

Judge Lee allowed that component of the suit to proceed, citing caselaw that the Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to ensure inmates receive adequate food, clothing, and shelter.

But the judge dismissed that claim against DOC Commissioner J. David Donahue, who it determined had no personal knowledge or influence on what was happening. In his order this week, the judge also dismissed various other claims involving restricted access to prison disciplinary processes, and access to courts and "legal mail."

In his 13-page handwritten complaint originally filed in Marion Superior Court, then transferred to both of Indiana's federal District Courts, Ketchem requests injunctive relief, asks for $15,000 in damages, and $25,000 in punitive damages against each defendant.
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