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Use of Stun Gun, Four-Point Restraints Not Constitutional Violation

The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a federal district court
in Pennsylvania by holding that a state prisoner's Eighth Amendment rights
were not violated by guards' use of a stun gun and four-point restraints,
where evidence showed the prisoner had provoked the incident.

Ronald Camp, a Pennsylvania prisoner at State Correctional. Institution at
Albion (SCI-Albion), sued prison officials under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging
that they used excessive force in violation of his Eighth Amendment right
to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by shocking him twice with an
Electronic Barring Immobilization Device (commonly called a "stun gun,"
also known as an EBID), and by stripping him naked, strapping him to a
table with four-point restraints,and leaving him there for two days under
observation of female staff. The district court dismissed the action for
failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and Camp appealed. See: Camp v.
Brennan, 219 F.3d 279 (3rd Cir. 2000) [Prison Legal News, June 2001, page
4]. The Third Circuit reversed, and on remand, following an evidentiary
hearing, the district court granted summary judgment to prison officials.
Camp appealed again.

Camp was removed from his cell by an extraction team after demonstrating
"erratic and threatening behavior." Handcuffed, he was led to an
observation cell. Camp placed his foot against a door and pushed off,
causing everyone to stumble and fall. A guard then shocked him twice with a
stun gun, leaving four dime-sized burns. Upon reaching the observation
cell, Camp was stripped naked, checked for contraband and weapons, and
placed in four-point restraints. A blanket was placed over him but at some
point it fell off. Camp claimed that he was left on the table naked, under
observation of female staff, without food or water, for two days.
Reviewing the evidence, including a video submitted by the defendants, the
court held that Camp provoked the scuffle that resulted in the stun gun's
use. The stun gun was only utilized to subdue Camp; no unnecessary or
excessive force was used. Camp's claim failed because the use of a stun gun
is not an excessive use of force where that is the force needed to subdue a
violent or recalcitrant prisoner, and no more shocks are applied than are

Camp's conditions of confinement claim regarding the observation cell also
failed. Contrary to his claim, evidence submitted by Camp showed he was
fed. Moreover, the Magistrate Judge's review of the video of Camp's
restraint in the cell showed that Camp himself caused the blanket to fall
off. Because Camp was the cause of his own nakedness, he had no claim
against prison officials.

Citing Johnson v. Captain Boreoni, 946 F.2d 67, 71 (8th Cir. 1991), and
Williams v. Delo, 49 F.3d 442, 446 (8th Cir. 1995), confinement to a strip
cell for observation for 36 hours (Johnson) or four days (Williams) in
response to a disturbance caused by the prisoner, did not violate the
Eighth Amendment so long as "the minimal civilized measures of life's
necessities" were provided.

The district court's judgment was affirmed. This case is published in the
Federal Appendix and is subject to rules governing unpublished cases. See:
Camp v. Brennan, 54 Fed.Appx. 78 (3rd Cir. 2002).

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Related legal case

Camp v. Brennan

[U] Camp v. Brennan, 54 Fed.Appx. 78 (3d Cir. 12/05/2002)


[2] No. 02-2003

[3] 54 Fed.Appx. 78, 2002

[4] December 5, 2002


[6] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civil Action No. 98-cv-00180E) District Judge: Honorable Sean J. McLaughlin

[7] Before: Barry and Ambro, Circuit Judges ACKERMAN*fn1, District Judge

[8] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambro, Circuit Judge


[10] Submitted Under Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) November 20, 2002


[12] Ronald Camp filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights suit against guards and officials of the State Correctional Institute at Albion. Camp alleges that while an inmate there, he was subjected to excessive force during a cell extraction and then restrained in an observation cell while videotaped and without clothing, in violation of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The District Court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Camp appeals the dismissal of his claims on grounds that genuine issues of material fact exist as to both. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and affirm.

[13] I.

[14] On October 6, 1996, a team of five to six guards forcibly extracted Camp from his cell, where he had been exhibiting erratic and threatening behavior. Camp was handcuffed and led by the guards toward an observation cell. As they were proceeding down a hallway and through an exit, Camp placed his foot against the door and pushed off. His doing so caused the group to stumble off balance, and Camp either fell or was pushed to the floor. While Camp was on the ground, one of the officers applied an EBID (Electronic Barring Immobilization Device), or stun gun, to Camp at least once. The disturbance in the doorway lasted less than twenty seconds, and was videotaped in its entirety.

[15] Once the guards regained control of Camp, they carried him to an observation cell where he was strip searched and, while still naked, placed on a bed and put into a four points restraint, i.e., each limb was strapped down. A blanket was draped over him, but at some point it either was removed or fell off. Camp says that he was left in this state - tied down, without clothing or food - for two days. *fn2 These events also were videotaped. The prison officials responsible for observing Camp included a female.

[16] II.

[17] We exercise plenary review over a grant of summary judgment. Padillas v. Stork-Gamco, Inc., 186 F.3d 412, 414 (3d Cir. 1999). To determine whether the actions of correctional officers constituted excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment, we look to the following factors:

[18] (1) the need for the application of the force; (2) the relationship between the need and the amount of force that was used; (3) the extent of injury inflicted; (4) the extent of the threat to the safety of staff and inmates, as reasonably perceived by responsible officials on the basis of the facts known to them; and (5) any efforts made to temper the severity of a forceful response. Brooks v. Kyler, 204 F.3d 102, 106 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 321 (1986)).

[19] The central question in such a claim is "whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Id. (quoting Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992)).

[20] Examining the circumstances of this case under the Whitley factors, we conclude that the force applied was not so excessive as to present a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim. Camp's refusal to walk through the doorway created the confrontation; force was applied for approximately twenty seconds, a reasonably short period necessary to subdue a struggling prisoner; and Camp's injuries involved four dime-sized burns, indicating that the dual-pronged EBID was applied twice. Contrary to Camp's assertions, the use of the stun gun does not prove that the amount of force was excessive. Cf. Soto v. Dickey, 744 F.2d 1260, 1270 (7th Cir. 1984) ("The use of mace, tear gas or other chemical agent of the like nature when reasonably necessary . . . to subdue recalcitrant prisoners does not constitute cruel and inhuman punishment," even if the inmate is handcuffed). The brief application of the EBID was reasonably necessary to regain control of Camp.

[21] III.

[22] Camp next challenges the circumstances of his detention in the observation cell following the hallway incident. More specifically, Camp contends that restraining him on a table for an extended period of time, while naked, violated the Eighth Amendment. Neither the relevant law nor the facts support such a claim in this case.