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$1,008 in Damages Awarded to Illinois State Prisoner

A federal jury awarded Gregory J. Turley, an Illinois state prisoner, $1,008 in compensatory and punitive damages for the retaliatory actions of two guards.

Turley sued guards Julie Marry and Robert Gales, and Warden Roger Cowan for retaliation. In May 200, Turley was a prisoner at Menard Correctional Center, a maximum security prison. He filed a grievance against Marry on May 20, 2000. Turley raised personnel and institutional concerns, detailed her revealing, unprofessional manner of dress, and demonstrated possible solutions, e.g. implementing a dress code.

Marry received a copy of the grievance on May 11, 2000. She wrote a disciplinary report (DR) on Turley for insolence and intimidation or threats based on Turley’s statements within the grievance. Consequently, he was confined to his cell.

On May 25, 2000, Gales, heading an adjustment committee, approved the DR, finding Turley guilty of insolence. He was given a verbal reprimand. Turley appealed to the Administrative Review Board, which disagreed with the committee and expunged the DR.

However, on May 23, 2000, another guard, Dennis Whittenburg, submitted Turley for a transfer to Shopeville Correctional Center. Whittenburg and other officials recommended Turley’s escape risk level be raised from “medium” to “high” and his security level from “medium” to “maximum,” despite maintaining the lesser designations for several years.

The written justification for the transfer was “a conflict of interest with a female staff member.” As for Turley’s raised escape risk level, guards used his escape history. While protocol suggested a reassessment upon transfer, a “high” rating was appropriate where incident(s) occurred within the last five years. Turley’s last incident, an attempted eluding charge, happened about fourteen years earlier in 1986.

Warden Cowan, whom the jury absolved of damages, approved the transfer and higher security and escape risk levels. Although he stated that the grievance did not motivate his decisions, he conceded Turley’s escape history played a large part.

Because of the transfer and higher designations, Turley lost his low-aggression housing unit, special privileges, and job assignment. On September 13, 2006, the jury found both Marry and Gales liable of violating Turley’s First and Fourteenth Amendment right to challenge the conditions of his confinement. Marry was required to pay $7.00 in compensatory damages and $1,000 in punitive damages to Turley. Cowan only had to pay $1.00 in compensatory damages. See: Turley v. Cowan, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Illinois), Case No. 09-cv-00829-SCW; 2012 WL 996957.

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Related legal case

Turley v. Cowan