Shorter v. United States

The Bureau of Prisons housed the inmate-plaintiff in a single cell with eleven other men. The plaintiff was a transgender woman. She was screened for her risk for sexual assault, and prison officials determined that she was at a “significantly” higher risk for sexual assault than other inmates because she presented as transgender, was small in stature, and had been sexually assaulted at another prison. She also asked to be moved to a cell where she wasn’t housed with eleven other men because the only thing more dangerous and dumb than housing her with eleven other men would be to house her with more than eleven other men. In a “hold my beer” kind of decision, the warden moved her to a two-person cell, but that cell was farthest away from the guard station, and the cellmate was a convicted sex offender. After more complaints and slow responses from wardens, the plaintiff was moved to similarly dangerous situations several times. In the middle of the night, an inmate entered her cell, raped her, and cut her seven times. The plaintiff filed this pro se lawsuit alleging that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to the risk she would be seriously harmed in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The District Court dismissed the complaint before the defendants were served because it held that the plaintiff failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The Third Circuit vacated the order and held that Bivens provides a remedy in the context of deliberate indifference to prison rape. Furthermore, the Court ruled that it was premature to dismiss Shorter’s complaint at the screening stage because the plaintiff stated an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim.

CHRISTOPHER