Prisoner at Terre Haute federal prison wins reversal for grievance

IL file photo

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s ruling to dismiss two grievances from a prisoner who claimed he was beaten by guards at Terre Haute’s federal prison.

But the appellate court reversed and remanded a third grievance back to the district court for a Pavey hearing to take testimony and see if information was withheld from the inmate by the prison’s warden that would have helped him with his appeal.

Leroy Ingram filed a lawsuit claiming he was set upon and beaten by guards, and medical staff denied him access to necessary care while confined in the U.S. Penitentiary at Terre Haute, according to court records.

Ingram sought damages from the prison’s warden and several members of the staff.

A district judge granted summary judgment to all defendants, finding Ingram failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.

The 7th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling on two of Ingram’s grievances. But the appellate court reversed as to Ingram’s grievance directed to the asserted physical attack and remanded for further proceedings.

Ingram had filed three substantive grievances.

One grievance, which asserted members of the staff failed to protect him from harm, was ultimately rejected for lacking required attachments.

His second grievance claiming the staff retaliated against him by withholding necessary medical care was also rejected due to Ingram not completing the first step of the process, which is informal resolution.

He also complained about the attack itself by filing  a grievance with the warden, who rejected it. Ingram then appealed to a regional director.

After waiting several weeks, he asked an officer what was going on and was told that the prison had received the director’s decision, but it would not be given to him.

In response, Ingram filed a grievance about the process and a lawsuit.

The director gave his response three days after the lawsuit was filed.

By the time Ingram received it, it was too late to appeal to the general counsel and the lawsuit was already pending.

All administrative remedies must be exhausted before filing a lawsuit, according to the appellate court.

The district court found that Ingram should have treated the prison’s failure to hand over the director’s decision as a non-response and appealed to the general counsel.

However, Ingram insisted the director did act. In order to appeal to the next level, the decision needed to be attached. Ingram couldn’t appeal to the general counsel without being given the director’s decision.

“The district court should have held a Pavey hearing and taken testimony on subjects such as whether the Warden refused to provide the Regional Director’s statement to Ingram or whether, instead, there was just bureaucratic delay in handing it over,” Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote. “After receiving evidence, which might include finding out exactly what (Officer) Gore said to Ingram, the district court should decide whether (28 C.F.R.) §542.15(b)(1) excused Ingram from appealing to the General Counsel.”

The case is Leroy N. Ingram v. T.J. Watson, et. al., 21-3400.

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