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Hines v. Illinois Department of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 31, 2017



          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge


         Pro se Plaintiff Montorio Hines is currently an inmate at Hill Correctional Center (“Hill”). Hines, a Muslim, claims that his rights have been violated because Defendants refused to provide him a Halal diet that includes Halal meat. When he requested a dietary accommodation, rather than receiving a diet with Halal meat, Hines was provided with a diet known as the lacto-ovo diet, which, among other things, substitutes soy-based proteins for meat. Hines brought suit for alleged violations of his free exercise and establishment rights under the First Amendment, his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, his right to equal protection under the law pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment, and his rights as set forth under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc et seq. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 42) to which Plaintiff filed a response (Doc. 55). Defendants' summary judgment motion is currently before the Court, and for the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' motion (Doc. 42) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


         Hines is currently incarcerated at Hill Correctional Center. (Doc. 43-1, p. 6). From January 2009 to June 2014, he was incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”). (Id. at 14-15). Hines is a Muslim and, pursuant to his religious beliefs, is required to eat a Halal diet that is consistent with the Qur'an. (Id. at 17-18). According to him, that means he cannot eat pork, and, if he eats other meat, it must have a certain prayer or invocation pronounced over it. (Id. at 18-19). Defendants claim that Hines is not required to eat meat, but Hines, citing to religious verses attached to his response, disputes that claim and maintains that he is required by his faith to eat meat. (Doc. 55, p. 6). At his deposition, however, Hines testified that he was unsure whether he was required to eat meat at all. (Doc. 43-1, p. 21). He initially testified that he “would not necessarily say one [who practices Islam] is required to eat meat, ” but later he said that he did not know whether the Qur'an required him to eat meat. (Id. at 20-21).

         The parties agree that an incarcerated person is permitted to abstain from any foods, the consumption of which would violate their required religious tenants. (Doc. 43, p. 3; Doc. 55, p. 4). Defendants claim, and Plaintiff does not dispute, that while he was incarcerated at Pinckneyville, Hines requested to be placed on the lacto-ovo diet for religious reasons. (Doc. 43, p. 3; Doc. 55, p. 4; Doc. 43-1, p. 27-29). The lacto-ovo diet is a meatless diet, characterized as vegetarian by Hines. (Doc. 43-1, p. 23). He believes it differs in some respects from the diet option offered by IDOC that is specifically designated “vegetarian.” (Id. at 46). According to Defendant Terri Bryant, Food Services Manager at Pinckneyville, the lacto-ovo diet consists of all of the items on the general population food menu, except that all meat and meat by-products are replaced with soy products. (Doc. 43-3, p. 1). Ms. Bryant also asserts that the lacto-ovo diet is approved for Muslim inmates. (Id.). Hines, however, argues that while the lacto-ovo diet is “approved for Muslims by the Courts and enforced by the Department of Corrections in Illinois… it is not derived from nor has its origins in the rulings of Islam.” (Doc. 55, p. 4-5).

         Though Bryant did not indicate what the specific food items on the lacto-ovo diet consist of, Plaintiff testified as to the menu:

Well, the lacto-ovo diet, you can eat cheese, you can, you can have milk. You know, rice, beans, you know, the salad. You know, peanut butter, jelly. You know, you still can get the eggs. You get cheese.
You know, we still was able to get basically those items that the general population was allow to have other than basically the meat, so to substitute the meat, of course, which is, you know, the lacto-ovo is a vegetarian diet.
And so as a substitution for the meat was like the vegan pattie.

(Doc. 43-1, p. 23). Plaintiff testified that he was placed on the lacto-ovo diet after completing a religious dietary request. (Id. at 27-28). An IDOC memo shows that Hines applied for a lacto-ovo diet on the basis of his religious beliefs as a Muslim inmate on February 23, 2011. (Doc. 43-2). As part of the application process, he was interviewed by the Defendant Bryant and Defendant Sutton, the chaplain. (43-1, p. 27-28). He was approved for the diet on February 26, 2011, and was scheduled to start the diet on March 1, 2011. (Doc. 43-2).

         While at Pinckneyville, Hines could purchase certain Halal meat at the commissary, though there were relatively few Halal items compared to non-Halal items. (Doc. 55, p. 5; Doc. 43-1, p. 30). He testified that he could not always afford to supplement his lacto-ovo diet with Halal items from the commissary. (Doc. 43-1, p. 51). In June 2014, Plaintiff was transferred from Pinckneyville to Hill Correctional Center. (Doc. 43-1, p. 6). Regarding the Hill commissary, Hines testified that he did not know if there were any Halal food items available for purchase at Hill; however, he stated in his response to Defendants' summary judgment motion that there are no Halal items at the Hill commissary. (Doc. 55, p. 7; Doc. 43-1, p. 30).

         Since being transferred to Hill, Hines is no longer on the lacto-ovo diet. (Doc. 43-1, p. 22). He claims that he stopped eating the diet due to his health deteriorating because of the amount of soy in the diet. (Id. at 50). According to Hines, the lacto-ovo diet caused him to go to the healthcare unit two or three times with stomach pain. (Id. at 24, 52). He also claims he lost fifteen to twenty pounds during the same time period. (Id. at 24). Attached to his response, Hines included several pages of medical records which he claims demonstrate that the lacto-ovo diet caused him “serious abdominal complications, ” and weight loss. (Doc. 55-1, p. 1 - 12; Doc. 55, p. 6). According to the IDOC Food Service Administrator, Suzann Bailey, however, the regular diet food tray is designed to provide roughly 2300-2500 calories and at least eight ounces of protein to inmates daily, and the lacto-ovo diet is designed to provide “similar caloric intake as the regular diet tray.” (Doc. 43-4). Hines, however, does not challenge the general nutritional adequacy of the lacto-ovo diet; rather, he argues that the diet is inadequate specifically for him, as evidenced by his weight loss and “abdominal complications.” (Doc. 55, p. 6).

         Hines first grieved the lack of a Halal diet consistent with his religious beliefs on October 30, 2011. (Doc. 1, p. 20-23). He grieved the lack of Halal meat and claimed that the diet was not nutritionally adequate. (Id.). His grievance was denied on November 10, 2011. (Id. at 20). There is no indication from the grievance that any of the Defendants were personally aware of it. Hines filed another grievance on February 6, 2013, raising numerous issues relating to his diet. (Id. at 40). In the grievance, Hines claimed that his diet was inadequate because he had lost 12 to 15 pounds and had gotten sick from the soy in the diet. (Id. at 40-41). He claimed he had resorted to eating non-Halal food as a result of these issues. (Id. at 41). As part of his relief, Plaintiff sought to be placed on a soy-free diet that was Halal. (Id. at 40). On February 17, 2013, Plaintiff grieved the inadequacy of his brunch meal at Pinckneyville. (Id. at 42-43). He claimed various food items that he could have eaten were “embargoed” and kept from Muslim inmates and that, as a result, his diet was inadequate, causing him either to lose weight or to have to violate his faith by eating non-Halal food to sustain his health. (Id. at 42-43).

         On August 13, 2013, a grievance officer responded to both the February 2 and February 17 grievances and noted that, in addition to financial compensation, Hines sought a soy-free Halal diet. (Id. at 44). The report included a summary of a response from Defendant Bryant. (Id.). She indicated that there was no “embargo” of food and that she spoke to the inmate diet cooks to remind them to place all menu items on the food trays. Bryant said that if Hines had future issues with not receiving his food, he should notify the on-duty CFSS immediately. She also indicated that brunch menus for religious diet participants mirror the general menu with substitutions made only for meat products. Bryant did not squarely address Plaintiff's complaints of nutritional inadequacy. (Id.). She also did not address Plaintiff's request for a Halal diet. (Id.). It is also indicated as part of the response that Defendant Bryant spoke with Defendant Reiman as a result of the issues raised in Plaintiff's grievances. (Id.). Ultimately, Plaintiff's grievances were denied. (Id.).

         Plaintiff filed the present suit on May 9, 2014, naming as defendants the Illinois Department of Corrections, its director, S.A. Godinez, and officials and staff members from Pinckneyville: Rick Sutton (chaplain), Terri Bryant (Dietary Supervisor), CFSS Harris (Dietary Staff), CFSS Snyder (Dietary Staff), and CFSS Reiman (Dietary Staff). On July 8, 2014, the Court issued a merits review order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. (Doc. 9). In its order, the Court found that only certain claims of Count One survived: specifically, Hines's RLUIPA claim against Defendants in their official capacities only, Hines's First and Fourteenth Amendment claims, and his Eighth Amendment claims regarding weight loss and health problems only. (Id. at 9). [1]On May 20, 2016, the Defendants filed the present motion for summary judgment (Doc. 42), and Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. 55). The motion is now ripe and ready for disposition.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs summary judgment motions. Summary judgment is “appropriate if the admissible evidence considered as a whole shows that ‘there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Dynegy Mktg. & Trade v. Multi Corp., 648 F.3d 506, 517 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)); see also Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Info. Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         After a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2)). A genuine issue of material fact remains if the “evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Bunn v. Khoury Enterpr. Inc., 753 F.3d 676, 682 (7th Cir. 2014)(quoting Anderson 477 U.S. at 248). In assessing a summary judgment motion, the district court views the facts in the light most favorable to, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of, the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Donahoe, 699 F.3d 989, 994 (7th Cir. ...

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