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Anderson v. State

United States District Court, District of Colorado

April 7, 2015



R. Brooke Jackson, United States District Judge.

This case is back before this Court on plaintiff’s Motion for Enforcement of Judgment and Further Relief or, in the Alternative, for Hearing on Order to Show Cause, filed September 12, 2014. ECF No. 178. After various extensions of time were granted to facilitate a possible negotiated resolution of the present dispute, the defendants responded in opposition to the motion on December 3, 2014. ECF No. 185. That was followed by an additional brief and supplement filed by the plaintiff. ECF Nos. 186 and 187, the latter filed on January 26, 2015. The Court apologizes to the parties for not turning to this matter more promptly. Having now read and studied the parties’ papers, and for the reasons set forth below, plaintiff’s motion is denied.


Trial and Judgment. The history of Troy Anderson’s incarceration in the Colorado Department of Corrections and the specific complaints that gave rise to this lawsuit are summarized in this Court’s Final Order and Judgment issued on August 24, 2012. Briefly, for the last 12 years Mr. Anderson had been housed in “administrative segregation” in the Colorado State Penitentiary, the most restrictive custody level within the CDOC. He spent 23 to 24 hours a day alone in a small cell. He was supposed to be taken from his cell to an “exercise” room five times each week. The exercise rooms, similarly small and empty except for a chin-up bar, had open windows covered by metal grates that contained quarter-sized holes through which Mr. Anderson could see outside and sometimes feel a breeze or the warmth of the sun. There was no opportunity for outdoor exercise or indeed being outdoors at all during the 12 years preceding the trial in this case.

Mr. Anderson complained in this case of unconstitutional treatment in three areas: (1) the denial of any opportunity for outdoor exercise; (2) inadequate mental health treatment; and (3) the application of an arbitrary demerit system that kept him from progressing out of administrative segregation. Following a seven-day bench trial the Court found that the extended denial of outdoor exercise was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and ordered the CDOC to develop, within 60 days,

a plan that ensures that Troy Anderson has access for at least one hour, at least three times per week, to outdoor exercise in an area that is fully outside and that includes overhead access to the elements, e.g., to sunlight, rain, snow and wind, unless inclement weather or disciplinary needs make that impossible.

ECF No. 109 at 38-39.

The Court found in favor of the defendants on Mr. Anderson’s claim regarding mental health treatment. It found that it was not in a position to second-guess the medical judgment of his physicians with respect to medication prescribed for him, and that the systems in place at the Colorado State Penitentiary, particularly its Offenders with Mental Illness or “OMI” program, offered constitutionally adequate opportunities for multidisciplinary mental health treatment.

The Court did order, however, that defendants assign a CDOC physician without previous contact with Mr. Anderson to take a fresh look at his medication and treatment needs. Id. at 39.

With respect to the demerit or “chronological reporting” system, the Court noted that the CDOC was studying potentially significant changes to that system even while the trial was in progress and left the record open for a little over two additional weeks so that the parties could address the anticipated revisions to Administrative Regulation 650-03. After reviewing the new regulation, the Court found that it appeared to reflect “a significant effort by the CDOC to improve the evaluation and review policies for administrative segregation inmates.” Id. at 38. The Court concluded that the new policies deserved to be given a chance, and therefore resolved that claim in favor of the defendants, reserving the right to modify that conclusion if the changes proved to be form over substance. Id.

Initial Efforts to Comply with Judgment. Defendants’ initial response to the Court’s judgment was to transfer Mr. Anderson to the Sterling Correctional Facility and to declare that he would have an opportunity “to exercise for at least one hour, at least three times (normally five times) per week, in an outdoor area that includes overhead access to the elements.” Defendant’s Notice of Compliance with Final Order and Judgment, filed October 23, 2012 [ECF No. 118] at ¶4. In fact, this “opportunity” turned out to be placement in a 28 by 6 ½ foot concrete cell which, at one end, had a mesh ceiling and mesh walls above an eight-foot concrete base that permitted him to see the sky and be exposed to rain, snow and outdoor temperature. On September 4, 2013 the Court found that these exercise cells at Sterling were unacceptable as a permanent solution. Transcript [ECF No. 166] at 20-21.

With respect to the mental health issue, defendants had complied with the Court’s order to have Mr. Anderson’s situation evaluated by a new doctor. He had been prescribed the Ritalin that he had been seeking. However, the OMI program that the Court had found to offer adequate multidisciplinary mental health treatment had been discontinued and replaced by a new “residential treatment program, ” which was not available at Sterling. Defendants insisted that adequate mental health treatment was available at Sterling, but that Mr. Anderson was refusing to accept it (and refusing to go to his exercise cell). Id. at 26. The Court indicated that it wanted to hear from the mental health professionals about whether the problem was Mr. Anderson’s stubbornness or something else. Id. at 28.

The parties requested an opportunity to attempt to resolve their differences, and the Court ordered them to report back in 30 days. Id. at 28-29, 40-41. The parties later filed several motions for extensions of time to attempt to resolve their disputes. ECF Nos. 167, 170, 172, 174, 176. Finally plaintiff’s filed the pending motion to enforce the judgment. ECF No. 178.

Mr. Anderson’s Present Situation. Beginning in mid-July 2014 Mr. Anderson has been permitted to exercise in an open-air yard near his living unit, initially with three other inmates, later with seven other inmates. In a September 10, 2014 Declaration he states, “I very much enjoy the ability to be fully outdoors like this, and have not missed many if any opportunities to go to the yard. Earlier this week, I felt the rain on ...

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