Tecumseh prison

Officers in riot gear enter a gymnasium on the north side of the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution on the morning after a Mother's Day 2015 riot. 

A federal judge has dismissed an inmate's lawsuit against state prison officials challenging being held in segregation, or solitary confinement, for more than two years.

Dylan Landers sued Scott Frakes, director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, Diane Sabatka-Rine and members of the central office multidisciplinary review team, alleging segregation amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. 

But, in an order Monday, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf found otherwise.

To establish such a violation, he said, a prisoner must show that the alleged deprivation is "objectively, sufficiently serious," resulting "in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities," and that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to "an excessive risk to inmate health or safety."

"Here, plaintiff has failed to provide any evidence even approaching this exacting standard," Kopf wrote.

Landers hasn't been deprived of clothing, food, shelter, bedding or bathroom facilities. And he has had access to the yard, showers and medical services.

"The court recognizes that the conditions in restrictive housing may cause plaintiff discomfort, but such evidence does not indicate that these conditions pose an excessive risk to his health or safety," Kopf said.

He went on to say that far worse conditions than Landers experienced have been held not to violate the Eighth Amendment, including an inmate shackled for more than 24 hours and an inmate who spent two days in a cell without clothing, bedding or running water and a concrete slab for a bed.

When Landers filed his complaint in 2017, he had been in restrictive housing for more than 2½ years.

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In response to the complaint, prison employees, through the Attorney General's office, didn't contest Landers had been in restrictive housing for a prolonged period of time but contended that his classification comports with established standards and that he has had meaningful reviews.

Landers alleged they were sham reviews and had asked the judge to direct the prison to move him to general population.

Kopf said under certain circumstances, prolonged confinement in administrative segregation can rise to the level of "an atypical and significant hardship."

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But Landers' disagreement with the decisions and rationale regarding restrictive housing does not establish he was deprived of his due process rights. And, Kopf said, inmates don't have a constitutional right to a particular classification.

Landers, 27, was convicted of theft, burglary and escape from a county jail in 2010 and is serving his sentences at the State Penitentiary. He is eligible for parole in 2020 and has a projected release date of 2030.

Landers first was placed in segregation at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution in May 2015 while being investigated for involvement in that year's Mother's Day riot.

He remained in confinement until February 2017, when he transferred to the State Penitentiary as a general population inmate. After a month, he was again put into segregation pending an investigation of a "serious act of violent behavior."

In April 2017, he was placed back in longer-term restrictive housing based on his alleged involvement in a gang.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.


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