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Ware v. Garnett

July 28, 2006

ERIC WARE, INMATE #R-32516, AND YUMBA LASUMBA, INMATE #A-90725, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JASON GARNETT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Foreman, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Ware and Lasumba bring this action asserting various violations of their constitutional rights; each was an inmate in the Lawrence Correctional Center at the time they filed this action. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the amended complaint (Doc. 34) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Upon careful review of the amended complaint (Doc. 34) and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are legally frivolous and thus subject to summary dismissal.

RELIGION CLAIMS

The primary focus of this action is an amalgamation of claims involving Plaintiffs' religious practices. They allege that Defendants have denied them a Halal meal (¶ 1), a prayer rug (¶ 2), congregational prayer services (¶ 3), and religious head wear (¶ 9). Lasumba alleges that he was allowed only 10 minutes to eat during Ramadan (¶ 5), while Ware states that he was forced to forego the Ramadan fast because the evening meal provided to Ramadan participants was nutritionally inadequate (¶ 10). Lasumba is upset that his religious medallion was confiscated (¶ 4), while Ware contends that he should be allowed to teach Arabic to fellow Muslims (¶ 12).

It is well-established that "a prisoner is entitled to practice his religion insofar as doing so does not unduly burden the administration of the prison." Hunafa v. Murphy, 907 F.2d 46, 47 (7th Cir. 1990); see Al-Alamin v. Gramley, 926 F.2d 680, 686 and nn. 3-5 (7th Cir. 1991) (collecting cases). On the other hand, a prison regulation that impinges on an inmate's First Amendment rights is nevertheless valid "if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 349 (1987) (quoting Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987)). Such interests include inmate security and the proper allocation of limited prison resources. See id. at 348, 352-53; Turner, 482 U.S. at 90; Al-Alamin, 926 F.2d at 686.

Based on these standards, the Court is unable to dismiss these First Amendment claims at this point in the litigation. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

OTHER CLAIMS

In addition to their claims regarding religion, Plaintiffs include several brief allegations regarding other incidents of prison life. None of these claims rises to the level of a constitutional violation, as explained below.

Plaintiffs first contend that they are continuously subjected to the smell of their cell mates' feces, as their toilets flush every five minutes (ΒΆ 6). The Court would think that a working, flushing toilet is a good thing; it is when the toilet does not flush that problems of stench typically arise. In any event, to state a constitutional claim regarding conditions of confinement in a prison, two elements are required. First, an objective element requires a showing that the conditions deny the inmate "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities," creating an excessive risk to the inmate's health or safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). The second requirement is a subjective element -- ...


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