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Drew v. Vanord

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 10, 2019

ANDRE' DREW, #00663-000, Plaintiff,
v.
VANORD, WALLACE, THOMPSON, BYRAN, TRUE, and USP MARION, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Andre' Drew, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary located in Marion, Illinois (“USP-Marion”), brings this action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of federal authority, see Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb - 2000bb-4 (West 2019), and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc-1 - 2000cc-5 (West 2019). Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages, and injunctive relief.

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of a complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief, must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). 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

         Plaintiff makes the following allegations in his Complaint: Plaintiff, who practices the religion of Islam, has been praying in the leisure center and the recreation yard for the twenty-one months that he has been incarcerated at USP-Marion. (Doc. 1, p. 13). On January 24, 2019, following noon prayer, Recreation Officer Vanord informed him that he was not allowed to pray in the facility's leisure center or any other recreation area anymore. Id., p. 5, 7, 13. Plaintiff went to the office of the Recreation Supervisor Wallace who told him that the institution and the Bureau of Prisons had a policy that restricted Muslim prayer to the chapel and the inmate's cell. Id., pp. 5, 7, 13, 24. Plaintiff met with Wallace again on February 11, 2019, and during this meeting Wallace told Plaintiff that he would be willing to release Muslim inmates from the recreation areas to go back to their cells or the chapel to pray. Id., pp. 5, 16. Plaintiff claims that this allowance still denies Muslim inmates the ability to fully participate in recreation activities such as educational classes and movie viewings because inmates are given specific time frames in which to move “out-bound” to education, recreation, and work details, and once this time frame is over all destination points are locked down and inmates can no longer enter these programs. Id., p. 17. Muslim inmates, such as Plaintiff, are forced to choose between staying in the recreation areas and abandoning the practice of obligatory prayer or shortening the available recreation time to go back to their cell to perform prayer, unable to return to finish the activity, which effectively denies them participation in activities available to other inmates. Id., pp. 14, 17.

         Plaintiff tried on multiple occasions to meet with the G-Unit Counselor Thompson, the staff person responsible with providing, investigating, and responding to informal resolution requests, to obtain and file an informal resolution form challenging the prayer policy. Id., pp. 8-10, 12, 20, 26, 27. When Plaintiff tried to meet with him, however, Thompson was never in his office. Id. During one attempt, staff told Plaintiff “good luck finding him.” Id., p. 26. Other inmates also told Plaintiff that Thompson is never in his office and that Plaintiff would “be lucky to get in contact with him.” Id., pp. 8, 20, 26. Plaintiff was given an informal resolution form by the G-Unit Manager, Byran, Id., pp. 5, 8, 26, and turned in the form to another Unit Manager, but as of February 13, 2019, he had not heard a response or determination regarding his request or met with Thompson. Id., pp. 5, 9, 10. He also emailed Warden True about being denied the opportunity to pray and the inability to meet with Thompson, but received no response. Id. pp. 26-27. Plaintiff alleges that because Thompson deliberately makes himself inaccessible to the inmate population and Byran fails to properly supervise the Unit team members, his First Amendment right to access the institution's grievance procedure has been violated. Id., pp. 5, 12, 18.

         Preliminary Matters

         Plaintiff attempts to bring claims against USP-Marion, however, for constitutional claims brought under Bivens, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), or the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) USP-Marion is an improper defendant in this case. A Bivens action is a mechanism to seek redress for constitutional violations perpetrated by persons acting under the color of federal authority. See Janis v. U.S. 162 Fed.Appx. 642, 644 (7th Cir. 2006); King v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 415 F.3d 634, 636 (7th Cir. 2005). While, for the purposes of implementing any injunctive relief[1] that is ordered under RFRA or RLUIPA, Plaintiff has already included Vanord, Wallace, and True. Plaintiff has not stated in what capacity he brings claims against Vanord, Wallace, and True under the RFRA or RLUIPA and so the Court presumes official capacity. See Yeksigian v. Nappi, 900 F.2d 101, 104 (7th Cir. 1990)(when a complaint fails to specify the capacity of an individual defendant, the court presumes the person to be named in an official capacity). Therefore, USP-Marion is dismissed without prejudice.

         Additionally, Plaintiff claims that the policy prohibiting prayer in certain areas violates the religious freedom of all Muslim inmates at USP-Marion. (See Doc. 1, pp. 14, 21). However, Plaintiff is only entitled to assert his own rights. Massey v. Helman, 196 F.3d 727, 739-40 (7th Cir. 1999). Thus, the Court will only consider the alleged harms to Plaintiff, not to the inmate population generally.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into four counts.

Count 1 : First Amendment free exercise of religion claim against Vanord, Wallace, and True for enforcing a policy against Plaintiff that prohibits Muslim prayer in recreational areas.
Count 2: Fifth Amendment equal protection claim against Vanord, Wallace, and True for enforcing a policy which denied Plaintiff the ability to participate in recreational opportunities available to other inmates not practicing Islam by prohibiting Muslim prayer.
Count 3: Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)/Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) claim against Vanord, Wallace, and True for enforcing a policy against Plaintiff that prohibits Muslim prayer in recreational areas.
Count 4: Fifth Amendment Due Process and First Amendment claim against True, Thompson, and Byran for denying Plaintiff access to USP-Marion's ...

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