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Grayson v. Evans

December 1, 2009

OMAR GRAYSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN EVANS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Omar Grayson, formerly an inmate in the Big Muddy River Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and the Court finds that Grayson is, in fact, indigent. Accordingly, this motion (Doc. 2) is GRANTED.*fn1

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint 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). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; this portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

FACTS ALLEGED

Grayson alleges that in August 2008, he was sent to segregation for refusing to cut his hair. He states that he is a practitioner of the African Hebrew-Israelite religion, and one of the tenets of his faith requires him to grow his hair long. Due to his African ancestry, his hair naturally twists into dreadlocks as it gets longer. He explained all this to Defendant Schuler, who disregarded Grayson's protests, placed him in segregation, and issued a disciplinary ticket. After several days, Grayson's hair was cut off against his wishes.

CLAIMS PRESENTED

From this scenario Grayson presents two claims. First, he asserts that Schuler's actions were taken in violation of his First Amendment rights to freely exercise his religion.

Incarcerated individuals retain the right to exercise their religious beliefs. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). A prison regulation that infringes on inmates' Constitutional rights is valid "only if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987). However, this does not mean that "these rights are not subject to restrictions and limitations." Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545 (1979). Prisoners do not "retain the same freedom to exercise their religion as they would in the world outside the prison, [but] they may not be denied basic rights of conscience." Thompson v. Commonwealth of Ky., 712 F.2d 1078, 1081 (6th Cir. 1983). A prison "need make only reasonable efforts to afford the inmates an opportunity to practice their faith." Al-Alamin v. Gramley, 926 F.2d 680, 687 (7th Cir. 1991). "In providing this opportunity, the efforts of prison administrators, when assessed in their totality, must be evenhanded." Id. at 686. "[W]hether inmates were deprived of 'all means of expression' [is] an important consideration in measuring the reasonableness" of the interference with free exercise. Woods v. O'Leary, 890 F.2d 883, 887 (7th Cir. 1989) (citing O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 352 (1987)).

Applying these standards to the allegations in the complaint, the Court is unable to dismiss this claim ...


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