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Decoteau v. Raemisch

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 27, 2015

RICK RAEMISCH, in his official capacity as the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, and TRAVIS TRANI, in his official capacity as the Warden of the Colorado State Penitentiary and Centennial Correctional Facility, Defendants.


WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ, District Judge.

This class action lawsuit challenges certain policies of the Colorado Department of Corrections ("DOC"). (ECF No. 1.) Specifically, Plaintiffs claim that DOC's policy of denying outdoor exercise to certain inmates at the Colorado State Penitentiary ("CSP") is a violation of the Eighth Amendment. ( See generally id. ) This Court certified a class that, after certain amendments, is currently defined as follows: "All inmates who are now or will in the future be housed at the Colorado State Penitentiary and who are now or will in the future be subjected to the policy and practice of refusing to provide such inmates access to outdoor exercise." (ECF No. 93.)

Before the Court are Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 50) and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 56). For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that neither party qualifies for summary judgment. The motions are therefore denied.


Summary judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-50 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the relevant substantive law, it is essential to proper disposition of the claim. Wright v. Abbott Labs., Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 2001). An issue is "genuine" if the evidence is such that it might lead a reasonable trier of fact to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Allen v. Muskogee, 119 F.3d 837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997).

In analyzing a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). In addition, the Court must resolve factual ambiguities against the moving party, thus favoring the right to a trial. See Houston v. Nat'l Gen. Ins. Co., 817 F.2d 83, 85 (10th Cir. 1987).


The following facts are drawn from both summary judgment motions, and are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

A. Restrictive Housing

When this lawsuit began in December 2013, CSP prisoners in "administrative segregation" (solitary confinement) were, as a matter of DOC policy, denied all outdoor exercise. (Plaintiffs' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("Plaintiffs' Facts") (ECF No. 50 at 5-13) ¶¶ 2-9.) Effective June 30, 2014, however, DOC eliminated the term "administrative segregation" and replaced it with a new classification: "Restrictive Housing Maximum Security Status" ("Restrictive Housing"). (Plaintiffs' Facts ¶ 7.) The major difference between administrative segregation and Restrictive Housing is that inmates in Restrictive Housing have a presumptive limit on their stay-either six or twelve months, depending on the offense that warranted their placement in Restrictive Housing. ( Id. ¶ 48; Defendants' Statement of Facts ("Defendants' Facts") (ECF No. 56 at 5-12) ¶¶ 12-13.) "Any extension beyond twelve (12) months must be approved by the Director of Prisons as well as the Deputy Executive Director, and must be based upon documented exigent circumstances." (ECF No. 50-3 at 14.)

Restrictive Housing still generally does not allow for outdoor exercise. (Plaintiffs' Facts ¶¶ 10, 46.) However, as of January 2015, inmates confined to Restrictive Housing for more than nine months are allowed to exercise for one hour per day, three days per week, in a setting that DOC characterizes as "outside." (Plaintiffs' Statement of Additional Material Facts ("Plaintiffs' Supplemental Facts") (ECF No. 83 at 7-12) ¶¶ 3-6.) This exercise takes place in what DOC calls a "walled outdoor courtyard of approximately 700 square feet." (ECF No. 95 at 2.) Plaintiffs describe this same area as "an indoor room adjacent to the gym measuring approximately 694 square feet with a metal mesh and razor wire ceiling. The room is surrounded on all sides by concrete walls that are approximately 20 feet high." (Plaintiffs' Supplemental Facts ¶ 6.) Obviously the parties dispute whether this area is truly out-of-doors. For simplicity, and without any intent to resolve that issue at this point, the Court will refer to this area as the "exercise courtyard" or "courtyard."

Whether or not the exercise courtyard qualifies as "outdoors, " the parties agree that Restrictive Housing inmates are not allowed full freedom of motion there. Rather, each must exercise in his own steel mesh cage (or "module, " as the DOC calls it) measuring 10 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8 feet tall. ( Id. ) DOC intends to construct (and may have already constructed) three such cages within the courtyard. ( Id. ¶ 7.) "Given the security measures of transporting [Restrictive Housing] inmates, the cages can only provide exercise for 18 inmates, one hour each, three times per week." ( Id. ¶ 8.)


The same regulatory changes that substituted "Restrictive Housing" for administrative segregation also created a new housing classification, the "Management Control Unit, " known as "MCU" for short. (Defendants' Facts ¶¶ 25-26.) MCU inmates at DOC's Sterling prison receive outdoor exercise three times per week. ( Id. ¶ 30.) MCU inmates at CSP, however, may not exercise outside. (Plaintiffs' Supplemental Facts ¶ 11.) DOC claims that MCU inmates at CSP are "overflow" and should be transferred to Sterling ...

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