January 13, 2012

Advocate Tip: Anyone who knows someone in prison that has been harassed or attacked because of being convicted of a sex crime

1-13-2012 National:

If you know of someone in prison, who has been convicted of a sex crime, and has been harassed or attacked because of that conviction, here is an INSTRUCTIVE case on what MUST be done before filing a lawsuit.

The Case: Bristol v. Settle (Do Not think, well this is not in my area. This applies nationally. You MUST EXHAUST ALL Administrative Remedies before court)

From the case:

On April 2, 2009, five or six inmates at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institute at Graterford entered the cell of plaintiff-appellant Michael Bristol, who was also an inmate there, called him a "child molester," and punched and kicked him for between 20 and 40 seconds. Bristol subsequently filed this case against Graterford Correctional Officer E.T. Settle, asserting an Eighth Amendment failure-to-protect claim, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and associated state-law claims, arising out of the April 2 attack.1 Bristol alleges that Officer Settle caused the attack by telling the other inmates that Bristol's cellmate was a child molester. He alleges, further, that, a week after the beating, Officer Settle came to Bristol's cell and informed him that the attack was intended for his cellmate, who had been convicted of a sex offense or offenses involving children.

Bristol appeals an order of the District Court granting summary judgment to Officer Settle and dismissing all of Bristol's claims. We have jurisdiction over this appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and will affirm.

The District Court first found that the undisputed facts establish that Bristol failed to exhaust administrative remedies, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, and Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006), before an inmate may pursue a § 1983 claim concerning prison conditions. Specifically, evidence submitted by Graterford's Grievance Coordinator showed, and Bristol admitted, that Bristol never submitted any grievance related to the April 2 attack. The District Court also considered and rejected Bristol's argument that he was denied access to the grievance process, noting that, even accepting Bristol's assertion that he did not learn about the grievance process until after the attack, when he was at a different facility, Bristol never attempted to file a grievance or asked that his failure timely to file a grievance be excused.

On appeal, Bristol reasserts the argument that he should be excused from filing a grievance in this case, without citing any supporting caselaw or facts that the District Court failed to consider. Given the mandatory nature of the administrative exhaustion requirement, see Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007), and Bristol's failure to identify any basis on which we could hold that the grievance process was unavailable in his case, we agree with, and adopt, the District Court's analysis and conclusion on this point.

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