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Cabrera-Asencio v. Young

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

August 25, 2016

DARIN YOUNG Warden, DENNY KAEMINGK Secretary of Corrections, ELIZABETH VITETTA Coordinator D-Unit, AL ALLCOCK Associate Warden, JENIFER DRIESKE Dept Warden, Defendants.



         Plaintiff Cristian Cabrera-Asencio (“Cabrera-Asencio”) filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Doc. 1. Cabrera-Asencio is an inmate at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. This Court has screened his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the following reasons, the Court dismisses Cabrera-Asencio's complaint in part and directs service.


         Cabrera-Asencio is a Spanish speaking, undocumented immigrant inmate. Doc. 1 at 5-6. He alleges that he is routinely given jobs by the prison, but that Department of Corrections (“DOC”) policies prevent him from getting paid for his work because he is an undocumented immigrant. Id. at 5. Cabrera-Asencio filed grievances, complaining about his lack of pay. Id. He alleges that he got fired from his job for complaining. Id. He also claims that this happens to all undocumented immigrant inmates. Id.

         Cabrera-Asencio alleges that prison officials told him to stop speaking Spanish, his native language. Id. at 6. He filed grievances and complained to the prison staff, but he alleges that he is not allowed to file grievances and that Coordinator Elizabeth Vitetta, Warden Darin Young, and Associate Warden Al Allcock ignored his complaints. Id. On November 5, 2014, Cabrera-Asencio was written up for speaking Spanish. Id. He alleges that prison staff lied to ensure he would be disciplined and even ignored another inmate who claimed responsibility. Id. Cabrera-Asencio was found guilty of the infraction and disciplined. Id. He allegedly received other write ups and was punished for what he refers to as "bogus and fabricated reports . . . ."Id.

         Cabrera-Asencio alleges that defendants ignored his attempts to grieve or resolve these issues. Id. at 7. He alleges that Young, Allcock, and Vitetta were aware of his complains but did nothing to resolve the issues. Id. He alleges that Kaemingk rejected all of the complaints sent by Cabrera-Asencio. Id. Because of these rejections, Cabrera-Asencio alleges that the DOC staff continues to disrespect and dehumanize him. Id.


         On July 1, 2016, Cabrera-Asencio filed this complaint. Doc. 1. He alleges that defendants violated his rights under the Equal Protection Clause by refusing to pay him for his work, violated his First Amendment rights by punishing him for speaking Spanish and for his complaints, and violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment by ignoring his grievances. Id. at 5-7. As relief, Cabrera-Asencio requests compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 8. He also requests that his write up be expunged and his fines be remitted. Id. Finally, he requests injunctive relief to eliminate the DOC policies preventing payment of undocumented immigrant inmates and that defendants be barred from retaliating against him. Id.


         At this stage of the case, this Court must accept the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Schriener v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 774 F.3d 442, 444 (8th Cir. 2014). Civil rights and pro se complaints must be liberally construed. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citation omitted); Bediako v. Stein Mart, Inc., 354 F.3d 835, 839 (8th Cir. 2004). Even with this construction, "a pro se complaint must contain specific facts supporting its conclusions." Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985); Ellis v. City of Minneapolis, 518 F.App'x 502, 504 (8th Cir. 2013). Civil rights complaints cannot be merely conclusory. Davis v. Hall, 992 F.2d 151, 152 (8th Cir. 1993); Parker v. Porter, 221 F.App'x 481, 482 (8th Cir. 2007).

         A complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations . . . [but] requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "If a plaintiff cannot make the requisite showing, dismissal is appropriate." Beavers v. Lockhart, 755 F.2d 657, 663 (8th Cir. 1985).

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, this Court must screen prisoner claims filed in forma pauperis and determine whether they are (1) "frivolous, malicious, or fail[ ] to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (2) seek[ ] monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." See also Onstad v. Wilkinson, 534 F.App'x 581, 582 (8th Cir. 2013).


         Cabrera-Asencio's complaint raises three claims. He claims that defendants' regulations barring undocumented immigrants from being paid for working prison jobs violates his Equal Protection rights. He claims that defendants violated his rights by punishing him for speaking Spanish and retaliating against him for lodging complaints. Finally, he claims that supervisory ...

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