ON ALLEGATIONS PRISON GERM-FILLED, UNIFORMS STINKY

Taken as true, OAG says conditions in DOC not inhumane

The Office of the Attorney General said even taken as true an inmate’s allegations that the Department of Corrections is “germ-filled” and that their uniforms are stinky, among other complaints, the conditions in the DOC do not appear to be described inhumane or deemed as inadequate shelter under the Eight Amendment.

In a motion to dismiss inmate Jesse James Babauta Camacho’s lawsuit, assistant attorney general Hessel Yntema and OAG Civil Division chief Christopher M. Timmons, counsel for defendants CNMI government and DOC officials, asserted that Camacho alleges that DOC is full of germs and that their uniforms are not being washed sufficiently so that it stinks.

Yntema and Timmons said Babauta also alleges that insufficient amounts of hand sanitizers are being provided by the guards and notes that particular disdain for being told that the “air fresheners are for the officers use only.”

The lawyers said the U.S. Constitution “does not mandate comfortable prisons and that constitutionally, prison conditions may be “restrictive and even harsh.”

Yntema and Timmons said by only stating that things smell and are “germ-filled” in DOC, Camacho has failed to allege a constitutional harm.

“More is needed,” the lawyers pointed out.

Yntema and Timmons said other than general unpleasantries, Camacho alleges no real negative effects for the pled lack of sanitation: there are no rashes from lack of gloves; the prison smell is not overpowering.

Instead, Yntema and Timmons said, Camacho simply alleges that the prison is “stinky.”

“An occasionally stinky uniform does not an Eight Amendment claim make,” they said.

Yntema and Timmons said stinky uniforms and lack of hand sanitizers does not implicate the “wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain” standard required for an Eight Amendment claim.

The lawyers said Camacho states that there are neither doctor nor nurses in the DOC.

They said as a matter of public record, DOC does not have a doctor on staff and instead, inmates are regularly taken to the Commonwealth hospital for their regular checkups.

Yntema and Timmons said Camacho does not claim a denial of medical treatment by DOC or its officers.

“This again, it not an actionable constitutional harm; there is no mandate to have physician in house at detention facilities,” the lawyers added.

Yntema and Timmons said Camacho failed to provide any facts or allegations related to 11 of the previously named defendants.

They said the complaint mentions no dates and jumps around incoherently between multiple allegations, some of which are unactionable.

They said the court should dismiss from the case DOC officials/officers Georgia Cabrera, Jose K. Pangelinan, Pius Yaroitemal, Frances Rebuenog, Fredrick Billy, Benjamin Lizama, David Wabol, Abraham Reyes, Nardson Ambalan, Sensiny Matsurato, Anthony Malwelbug, Romeo Herman, and the CNMI.

Ruling that DOC lacks the capacity to sue or be sued, the federal court recently dismissed DOC as a party from this lawsuit.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona ordered that the CNMI government is substituted in DOC’s place as one of the defendants.

Citing that they cannot be sued for damages under Section 1983 and that Camacho did not request any prospective relief in his lawsuit, Manglona, however, also dismissed his complaint against the CNMI government and all DOC officials and officers that he sued in their official capacity.

Section 1983 is the statute that creates a remedy for violations of federal rights committed by persons acting under color of state law.

Camacho sued in their official capacity four defendants—DOC director of Civil Division Georgia Cabrera, the late Lieutenant Frances Rebuenog, Corrections Officer III Lorraine Rios, and Corrections Officer 3 Benjamin Lizama.

Manglona dismissed with prejudice Camacho’s complaint against defendants he sued in their personal capacity as to the events that occurred prior to and on Sept. 1, 2017.

Dismiss with prejudice means the inmate can no longer re-file the claims against these defendants.

Manglona dismissed without prejudice Camacho’s complaint against all remaining personal capacity defendants as it pertains to the events that occurred after the doctor diagnosed his heart attack.

Dismiss without prejudice means Camacho can re-file the claims against the personal capacity defendants.

Manglona allowed Camacho to amend his complaint, limited to adding more facts to support his claims against the remaining personal capacity defendants for deliberate indifference to his serious medical condition after Sept. 1, 2017.

Camacho then filed the second amended complaint.

Camacho filed a pro se or without a lawyer a handwritten complaint. He has claimed that he is now a disabled person after he underwent a heart surgery in November 2017. He blamed a DOC official and a DOC officer for allegedly causing the delay of his medical treatment.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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