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Mack v. Chaplain

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 29, 2018

CARL MACK, #R61452, Plaintiff,
v.
ASSISTANT WARDEN WALKER CHAPLAIN and ANN LAHR, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HERNDON, District Judge.

         Plaintiff Carl Mack is currently incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”). He brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(A), in order to challenge the denial of access to Hebrew Israelite worship services at Shawnee. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5). Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against the defendants and access to worship services.[1] (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         The Complaint is now subject to preliminary review 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.

         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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that any reasonable person would find meritless. Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross “the line between possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). The Complaint survives screening under this standard.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff is a practicing Hebrew Israelite. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5). When he arrived at Shawnee on August 29, 2017, [2] he submitted a written request for access to religious worship services. (Doc. 1, p. 4). The prison's chaplain (“Unknown Chaplain”) did not meet with Plaintiff to discuss his request until more than a month later. Id. At the meeting, the chaplain explained that he was not familiar with Plaintiff's religion but would speak with the assistant warden (“Walker”) about the availability of worship services. Id.

         After doing so, the chaplain and assistant warden offered to set up a meeting on Plaintiff's behalf with the prison's rabbi. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff explained that the meeting was unnecessary because Plaintiff is not Jewish. Id. The chaplain and assistant warden nevertheless scheduled a meeting with the rabbi for October 9, 2017. Id.

         Rabbi Schemon met with Plaintiff on that date but agreed that he could do nothing for Plaintiff because his religion is unrelated to Judaism. (Doc. 1, p. 4). The chaplain informed Plaintiff that he would speak with the assistant warden about finding a religious service for Plaintiff to attend. Id. To date, no services have been offered to him. Id.

         Plaintiff filed a grievance to challenge the denial of access to religious worship services. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5). The grievance was denied at every level. Id. This includes the denial of his grievance by the Administrative Review Board (“Ann Lahr”). (Doc. 1, p. 5).

         Plaintiff asserts that he has suffered from significant spiritual, mental, and physical pain at Shawnee as a result of this deprivation. (Doc. 1, p. 5). The prison allegedly has many Hebrew Israelite inmates, and Plaintiff routinely greets them with “shalom” when he sees them. Id. However, Plaintiff's ...


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