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Grant v. Sutton

September 27, 2006

JAMES GRANT, INMATE #N53705, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICK SUTTON, JULIUS FLAGG, MARK PIERSON, JOHN EVANS, LT. TURNER, C/O SWALLERS, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, a former inmate in the Pinckneyville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff previously was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and he has tendered his initial partial filing fee as ordered.

To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(f) and 10(b), the Court finds it appropriate to break the claims in Plaintiff's pro se complaint and other pleadings into numbered counts, as shown below. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

COUNT 1: Against Defendants Sutton, Swallers, Flagg, Pierson, Evans, and Turner for denying Plaintiff access to religious services and materials in violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA").

COUNT 2: Against Defendants Swallers, Flagg, Pierson, Evans, and Turner for denying Plaintiff access to the disabled shower, in violation of the Rehabilitation Act.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides, in pertinent part:

(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 complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds that none of the claims in the complaint may be dismissed at this point in the litigation.

COUNT 1

Plaintiff states that Defendant Sutton denied Plaintiff his right to practice his religion in the following ways. Defendant Sutton sectioned off the chapel creating a barrier between the Muslim worship area and other areas of the chapel and creating a space too small for all Muslim inmates at Pinckneyville to worship at the same time. Defendant Sutton then divided Muslim inmates into two groups for worship. Plaintiff explains that Christian inmates are not denied "full access" to the chapel in the same way. Defendant Sutton would not allow outside Imans to lead regular worship at Pinckneyville, even after two Imans at Menard Correctional Center volunteered. Defendant allowed Imans to lead worship only during the holy month of Ramadan. Plaintiff states that both Christian and Jewish clergy come to Pinckneyville to conduct services. Defendant Sutton has denied Muslim inmates permission to participate in holy festivals, even when inmates offered to pay for food or had arranged for donations. Defendant Sutton regularly allows special foods for Jewish holidays. Defendant Sutton has denied Muslim inmates Qurans, but has distributed Bibles for Christians and Torahs for Jews. Defendant Sutton has denied Plaintiff call passes to attend religious study classes and chapel. Defendant Sutton barred Plaintiff from giving sermons, leading prayer, and giving religious instruction. Plaintiff believes that Defendant Sutton barred him from leading worship because he disagrees with the teachings of Islam. Defendant Swallers also denied Plaintiff call passes to attend religious services.

Prisoners retain a First Amendment right to practice their religion, but a regulation that infringes an inmate's free exercise of religion will nonetheless survive constitutional challenge if prison administrators can establish that the regulation is a rational means of furthering a legitimate penological interest. O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 351-52 (1987); Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987); Tarpley v. Allen County, Ind., 312 F.3d 895, 898 (7th Cir. 2002). On the other hand, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1 et seq., bars a state prison receiving federal funds from implementing general regulations that substantially burden an inmate's "religious exercise" absent a compelling interest, and even then the prison must employ the "least restrictive means" of promoting that interest. 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a); ...


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