United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Troutman, a pro se prisoner, filed a complaint that
can only be described as a blunderbuss. It's brought
against 19 defendants that he encountered while incarcerated
at the Miami Correctional Facility. ECF 5. At times,
Troutman's complaint is unclear. As best I can tell, the
gist of his complaint centers around two things: his
employment at a prison work program named the Prison
Enterprise Network (PEN); and his inability to attend Friday
evening Islamic services at the prison. As for the specific
claims he is raising, although again unclear, I believe they
are set out in his request for declaratory judgment.
See ECF 5 at 44-45. Thus, for purposes of clearly
identifying his claims, I will rely on that section of
Troutman's complaint for guidance.
document filed pro se is to be liberally construed,
and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded,
must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quotation marks and
citations omitted). Nevertheless, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A, I must review the merits of a prisoner
complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief.
threshold matter, Troutman's complaint contains several
claims against the PEN program and the Miami Correctional
Facility ("Miami"). However, neither are suable
entities because they are merely divisions of the Indiana
Department of Correction. Neither PEN nor Miami are legal
entities separate from the agency they serve, and therefore
they are not subject to suit. See Whiting v. Marathon
Cty. Sheriffs Deft, 382 F.3d 700, 704 (7th Cir. 2004).
Free Exercise and RLUIPA Claims
first claim is that Superintendent Kathy Griffin, Assistant
Superintendent of Operations Craig Grage, Assistant
Superintendent of Programs Sharon Hawk, Chaplain William
Croto, and Chaplain Alex Beane violated his right to free
exercise of his religion. Troutman, a Muslim, was hired as an
inmate worker in the PEN program in May 2015. ECF 5 at 14.
His shift at PEN was from 6:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., Monday
through Friday. According to Troutman, between May 2015 and
January 2016, he was permitted to go directly to Friday
prayer after the conclusion of his shift. Id. at 15.
However, on February 5, 2016, Chaplains Croto and Beane told
him that Assistant Superintendent Hawk said he could not go
to Friday service anymore. He claims that he sent complaints
to Grage, Hawk, and Griffin but they never responded. He also
sent a complaint to Chaplain Beane, who responded that
Troutman had not been permitted to go to the service because
he had turned in his paperwork late.
March 2016, Troutman submitted a complaint with the
Department of Justice and sent a copy of his complaint to
Assistant Superintendent Hawk. He also wrote a complaint to
Assistant Superintendent Grage, but Grage responded that he
did not oversee prison programs and he forwarded the
complaint to a different department within the prison.
Troutman sent additional complaints to Hawk, Griffin, and
Grage, and forwarded copies of his complaints to Defendants
IDOC Commissioner Bruce Lemmon, IDOC Deputy Commissioner
James Basinger, and Executive Director of IDOC Adult
Facilities William Wilson.
April 2016, Assistant Superintendent Hawk responded to
Troutman's complaint. Hawk told Troutman that to fix his
schedule conflict he would have to quit his job at PEN and
apply for a different job. Hawk stated in her response that
she would "make this happen." Two hours after he
received Hawk's response, PEN Shop Supervisor Short
informed Troutman that he had been fired because he was
unhappy and had filed numerous grievances about the schedule
conflict. Troutman claims that Short already had prepared a
negative job evaluation for him, in anticipation of his
termination. Short told him that the decision to terminate
his employment had come from Miami, not PEN. Troutman claims
that PEN Plant Manager Roark and Short then prepared a
"false classification hearing report, " ECF 5 at
26, and they again reiterated that the termination decision
had come from Miami. He was given 90 days unpaid time to find
his termination, Troutman wrote to Hawk. Hawk claimed that
she was not involved in his termination. He claims that when
he wrote to Roark, Roark told him that he was fired because
he had missed too many days of work. He claims that
Classification Supervisor Clark told him that he was fired
because he received a negative job evaluation. He also claims
that he wrote to Doug Evans, the CEO of PEN, but Evans did
argues that Griffin, Grage, Hawk, Croto, and Beane violated
his First Amendment right to free exercise of his religion by
prohibiting him from attending Friday prayer after his shift
ended at PEN. He also claims that these defendants violated
his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized
Persons Act (RLUIPA). Prisoners have a right to exercise
their religion under the Free Exercise Clause of the First
Amendment. Vinning-El v. Evans, 657 F.3d 591, 592-93
(7th Cir. 2011). Nevertheless, restrictions that limit the
exercise of religion are permissible if they are reasonably
related to legitimate penological objectives, which include
safety, security, and economic concerns. Turner v.
Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89-91 (1987).
affords even broader protections than the First Amendment by
providing that "No government shall impose a substantial
burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or
confined to an institution . . . unless the government
demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person -
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest;
and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that
compelling governmental interest." 42 U.S.C. §
2000cc-l(a); see generally Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S.Ct.
853 (2015). A particular restriction imposes a substantial
burden on an inmate's religious practice when it"
'seriously' violates or contradicts an inmate's
religious beliefs." West v. Grams, 607
F.App'x 561, 567 (7th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted).
However, the statute does not authorize an award of money
damages against state officials; an inmate may only obtain
injunctive relief under RLUIPA. See Sossamon v.
Texas, 563 U.S. 277, 285 (2011).
may proceed with his First Amendment claim against Griffin,
Hawk, Croto, and Beane. At this stage of the litigation, it
appears that Troutman, and other Muslim inmates in his job
assignment, were prohibited from attending Friday night
service because their job assignment conflicted with
attendance at the service. However, it remains unclear
whether there was a legitimate reason for imposing
restrictions on this practice. But, given the inferences to
which Troutman is entitled, he has stated a plausible claim
against Defendants Griffin, Hawk, Croto, and Beane and may
proceed against them in their individual capacities for
monetary and injunctive relief. Troutman may also proceed
against Defendant Griffin in her official capacity for
injunctive relief for violating RLUIPA.
Grage, however, will be dismissed. When Troutman contacted
Grage, Grage informed him that, as Assistant Superintendent
of Operations, he did not oversee religious programs. Grage
then forwarded Troutman's complaint to the appropriate
department. Grage was not responsible for the alleged
violations of Troutman's rights, and took action to see
that his complaints were addressed by the appropriate people.
Troutman has failed to allege how Grage was personally
involved in violating his federal rights. Therefore, he may
not proceed with his First Amendment claim against Grage.
also claims that Defendants Griffin, Grage, Hawk, Croto, and
Beane violated his rights under RLUIPA by periodically
cancelling the Friday prayer service. The Friday service was
cancelled on April 3, 2015 and July 3, 2015 due to the State
holiday of Good Friday and Independence Day. ECF 5 at 14. The
facility cancelled these two services due to the
unavailability of a chaplain or outside volunteer to lead the
services, as well as staff shortages. The prayer service was
again cancelled on January 1, 2016, presumably for the same
administrative reasons. The cancellation of these three
services over a nine-month period does not plausibly identify
a substantial burden on Troutman's free exercise of his
faith. Cf. Turner v. Hamblin, 590 F.App'x 616,
620 (7th Cir. 2014) (affirming denial of prisoner's claim
that, in light of the frequently cancelled Islamic services,
the prison's ban on inmate-led services substantially
burdened his free religious exercise); Maddox v.
Love,655 F.3d 709, 718-19 (7th Cir. 2011)
("Prisons need not ...