United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
Benjamin Sangraal, Plaintiff, Pro Se.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.
his release from custody of the Illinois Department of
Corrections ("IDOC"), Plaintiff Benjamin Sangraal
brought a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1983 to
complain about numerous constitutional violations that
occurred during his incarceration at Centralia Correctional
Center ("Centralia") and Pinckneyville Correctional
Center ("Pinckneyville"). See Sangraal v.
Flagg, et al., No. 16-cv-0550-MJR ("original
case"). This case was severed from the original case
pursuant to a Memorandum and Order entered by the Court on
July 6, 2016. (Doc. 2, instant case). Consistent with the
Memorandum and Order, this case will address Plaintiff's
claim against the IDOC's head chaplain, Stephen Keim
("Chaplain Keim"), for denying Plaintiff's
request for a religiously-motivated kosher diet (Count 23,
original case). Plaintiff's severed claim is now subject
to preliminary review, along with his motion for leave to
proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP motion")
28 U.S.C. Â§ 1915(a)(1), a federal district court may allow a
civil action to proceed without prepayment of fees, if the
movant "submits an affidavit that includes a statement
of all assets [he] possesses [showing] that the person is
unable to pay such fees or give security therefor."
Plaintiff submitted a statement indicating that he lacks
sufficient income or assets to pay the filing fee (
see Doc. 3). The Court accepts this statement in
satisfaction of Â§ 1915(a)(1) and finds that Plaintiff is
indigent and unable to pay the filing fee for this action;
however, the Court's inquiry does not end there.
1915(e)(2) requires careful threshold scrutiny of the
complaint filed by an IFP plaintiff. A court can deny a
qualified plaintiff leave to proceed IFP or dismiss a case if
the action is clearly frivolous or malicious, fails to state
a claim, or is a claim for money damages against an immune
defendant. 28 U.S.C. Â§ 1915(e)(2)(B). The test for
determining if an action is frivolous or without merit is
whether the plaintiff can make a rational argument on the law
or facts in support of the claim. Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Corgain v.
Miller, 708 F.2d 1241, 1247 (7th Cir. 1983). An action
fails to state a claim if it does not plead "enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). When assessing an IFP motion, a district
court should inquire into the merits of the plaintiff's
claims, and if the court finds them to be frivolous or
meritless, it should deny leave to proceed IFP. Lucien v.
Roegner, 682 F.2d 625, 626 (7th Cir. 1982).
is a practicing Pagan, who claims that officials at Centralia
and Pinckneyville failed to accommodate his religious beliefs
(Doc. 1, pp. 48-50). More specifically, Plaintiff asserts
that Chaplain Keim denied his request for a
religiously-motivated kosher diet at Pinckneyville in 2014
and, in doing so, the chaplain interfered with
Plaintiff's religious rights. The allegations offered in
support of this claim are set forth on pages 48 through 50 of
the complaint (Doc. 1, pp. 48-50, Â¶Â¶ 413-30).
to these allegations, Plaintiff was transferred to
Pinckneyville for disciplinary reasons (Doc. 1, p. 48). The
facility allegedly offers no religious accommodations for
Pagan/Wiccan inmates. Plaintiff claims that Pinckneyville is
one of several "disciplinary joints" in the IDOC
that makes it particularly difficult for inmates to gain
approval for religious requests. Plaintiff further maintains
that he is entitled to receive a diet that is consistent with
his sincerely held religious beliefs and spiritual practices
( id. at 49).
requires a diet that excludes many of the same
"unclean" ingredients that are banned under kosher
and halal dietary codes, such as foods containing the blood
of dead animals. In addition, Plaintiff excludes foods
containing genetically modified organisms from his diet.
Finally, under his own interpretation of traditional Pagan
religious teachings, Plaintiff is required to consume a
"varied, seasonally-based diet" ( id. ).
IDOC offers four different diets: the standard prison diet, a
kosher diet, a vegan diet, and a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.
In addition, one or more special medical diets are offered to
inmates who have special medical needs. The kosher diet is
the only diet offered by the IDOC that is consistent with
Plaintiff's religious beliefs and spiritual practices.
Plaintiff was incarcerated at Centralia, he was served a
standard prison diet. The diet included foods that are
considered "unclean" in certain religions,
including Plaintiff's religion. Consumption of this diet
placed a substantial burden on his religious dietary
practices. Even so, he was generally able to set aside the
"unclean" foods and supplement the standard prison
fare with items purchased from the commissary. After being
punished with segregation and demotion to C-grade status,
however, Plaintiff's food options were limited. He could
no longer supplement his diet and became malnourished. In six
months, he lost forty-five pounds. To maintain his physical
health, Plaintiff was forced to consume "unclean"
foods ( id. at 50).
his transfer to Pinckneyville, Plaintiff immediately
requested a kosher diet. But the facility had no chaplain and
could not approve his religious dietary request without one.
Plaintiff spoke with dietary officers and members of the
health care staff about the issue. No one could offer him
protest, Plaintiff went on a hunger strike for three days.
The staff at Pinckneyville ignored his protest. They did not
document the hunger strike and gave away his meal tray to
21, 2014, Plaintiff met with Chaplain Keim to discuss his
request for a kosher diet. Plaintiff completed the paperwork
necessary to obtain a religious diet. He also explained that
he was requesting a kosher diet because it was the only meal
package that would accommodate his unique Pagan dietary
needs. The chaplain ...