United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Peter Gakuba, an inmate of the Illinois Department of
Corrections (“IDOC”) currently incarcerated in
East Moline Correctional Center, brings this action pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his
constitutional rights that allegedly occurred at Robinson
Correctional Center (“Robinson”). In his
Complaint, Plaintiff claims the defendants deprived him of
kosher meals in violation of the First Amendment and the
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a). (Doc.
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
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.
careful review of the Complaint and any supporting exhibits,
the Court finds it appropriate to allow this case to proceed
past the threshold stage.
Complaint (Doc. 1), Plaintiff makes the following
allegations: Plaintiff, “a mulatto Jew, ”
completed the forms to receive kosher meals while in prison
in 2015. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff's kosher meal request
was denied in September 2015 by John Doe 1, the IDOC's
Chief Chaplain. Id. Plaintiff questions the
rationale for the denial. Id. He did not cite to
religious verse or scripture in his application, pursuant to
an IDOC policy. Id. Plaintiff discussed the denial
with Robinson's Chaplain, who told Plaintiff the Chief
Chaplain was the final decision maker. Id. Plaintiff
“was the only known Jew at Robinson.”
March 2016, Tomas Gonzales met Plaintiff over the Passover
holiday and gave him a Torah and other religious material.
Id. Plaintiff used this material when he reapplied
for kosher meals by citing verses and scripture in support of
his request. Id. His request was then approved by
the Chief Chaplain, John Doe 1. Id. Per the
approval, John Doe 2 (the warden), Robinson's Chaplain,
and Dietary Supervisor Knight signed off on kosher meals,
which would start May 7, 2016. Id. On May 7,
Plaintiff began receiving kosher meals, which were
“pre-packaged, vacuum sealed, TV dinner like trays akin
to canned soup.” Id. These kosher, or Hebrew,
trays were served 1-2 times per day in May 2016 and several
times per week in June 2016 before stopping altogether.
Id. Plaintiff complained and wrote grievances to no
avail. Id. The response to his complaints was that
the “Hebrew trays cost $7-14 each and state budgetary
problems precluded this expenditure.” Id. In
September 2016, the Hebrew trays resumed intermittently.
Id. From about February to June 2017, they stopped
altogether, and later they resumed, but intermittently and
sparingly once again. Id.
Robinson was not serving Hebrew trays, it served non-kosher
food, including scrambled eggs, canned food (including diced
fruits, vegetables, and tuna), Kool-Aid, peanut butter and
jelly, grilled cheese sandwiches, French toast, and cereal.
Id. These “were continual violations of their
[duty] to meet [Plaintiff's] religious meal
requirements.” Id. They also “failed to
meet their stated ‘Nutritious 2000 calorie per day'
mandate.” Id. Plaintiff's cholesterol
increased from 120 to 175 in response to this diet, and he
developed irritable bowel syndrome. Id. Plaintiff
also could not afford the food in the commissary.
prisoner was approved for kosher meals in summer 2016 by
requesting them and falsely claiming he was Jewish when in
fact he is Christian. Id. This inmate is white.
October 18, 2017, Plaintiff was transferred to East Moline
Correctional Center, where he encountered problems similar to
those at Robinson. Id. In response to his verbal and
written grievances, East Moline prison administrators and
staff “conspired to retaliate and discriminate”