United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
GARLAND P. JEFFERS, Plaintiff,
MARVIN WALTON, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
Jeffers, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a complaint.
“A 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, the court
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.
complaint, Jeffers alleges that, as part of his religious
faith, he observes Ramadan by eating only at certain times,
and, in 2019, Ramadan began on May 6 and ended on June 6. In
April 2019, he submitted a request to Chaplain Walton for
placement on a list to eat at times that would accommodate
his religious faith. On May 4, a correctional officer
informed Jeffers that he was not on the list, and Jeffers
submitted another request to Chaplain Walton. On May 6,
Jeffers was not allowed to go to breakfast early because he
was not on the list. A correctional officer contacted
Chaplain Walton and told Jeffers that he was not on the list
because he had missed the deadline. Jeffers then submitted an
informal grievance. On May 8, Chaplain Walton told Jeffers
that he had missed the deadline and that he would not be
placed on the list. Jeffers attempted to resolve the failure
to accommodate his religious faith through the grievance
system and sought alternative accommodations by asking
correctional staff to take food from the cafeteria for later,
but he was unable to do so throughout the duration of
Ramadan. For his claims, he seeks money damages and
asserts that Chaplain Walton violated his rights under the
Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by preventing him
from eating during certain times in observance of Ramadan as
required by his religious faith. “[T]he protections of
the Free Exercise Clause pertain if the law at issue
discriminates against some or all religious beliefs or
regulates or prohibits conduct because it is undertaken for
religious reasons.” Church of the Lukumi Babalu
Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 532, (1993).
“The Free Exercise Clause prohibits the state from
imposing a substantial burden on a central religious belief
or practice.” Kaufman v. Pugh, 733 F.3d 692,
696 (7th Cir. 2013). “[A] prison inmate retains those
First Amendment rights that are not inconsistent with his
status as a prisoner or with the legitimate penological
objectives of the corrections system.” Pell v.
Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 822 (1974). “[W]hen a
prison regulation impinges on inmates' constitutional
rights, the regulation is valid if it is reasonably related
to legitimate penological interests.” Turner v.
Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987) Kaufman v.
McCaughtry, 419 F.3d 678, 682 (7th Cir. 2005). Based on
the allegations in the complaint, Jeffers asserts a plausible
claim under the Free Exercise Clause against Chaplain Walton.
also seeks injunctive relief against Chaplain Walton to
prevent him from denying any future requests for religious
accommodations. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized
Persons Act (RLUIPA) affords even broader protections than
the First Amendment. This act prohibits governmental actors
from imposing “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 is in furtherance of
a compelling governmental interest and is the least
restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental
interest.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a); Holt v.
Hobbs, 135 S.Ct. 853 (2015). A 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
Fed.Appx. 561, 567 (7th Cir. 2015). Money damages and
injunctive relief are available under Section 1983, but only
injunctive relief is available under RLUIPA. Sossamon v.
Texas, 563 U.S. 277, 285 (2011).
Jeffers asserts this claim against Chaplain Walton, it is the
Warden of the Westville Correctional Facility who has both
the authority and the responsibility to ensure that he
receives the accommodations to which he is entitled under
RLUIPA. See Gonzalez v. Feinerman, 663 F.3d 311, 315
(7th Cir. 2011). Therefore, the court will add the Warden as
a defendant in his official capacity and will allow Jeffers
to proceed against this defendant on an injunctive relief
further asserts a claim against Grievance Officer Harvil for
mishandling the grievances regarding the meal time
accommodations. However, “the alleged mishandling of [a
prisoner's] grievances by persons who otherwise did not
cause or participate in the underlying conduct states no
claim.” Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 953
(7th Cir. 2011). Consequently, Jeffers may not proceed on a
claim against Grievance Officer Harvil.
these reasons, the court:
GRANTS Garland P. Jeffers leave to proceed on a claim for
money damages against Chaplain Walton for violating his
rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment
by preventing him from eating during certain times in
observance of Ramadan as required by his religious faith from
May 6, 2019, to June 6, 2019;
DIRECTS the clerk to add the Warden of Westville Correctional
Facility as a defendant in his official capacity;
GRANTS Garland P. Jeffers leave to proceed on a claim for
injunctive relief against the Warden of Westville
Correctional Facility in his official capacity to be allowed
to eat during specific times in observance of Ramadan as
required by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized
DISMISSES John Harvil;
DISMISSES all other claims;
DIRECTS the clerk and the United States Marshals Service to
issue and serve process on Chaplain Walton and the Warden of
Westville Correctional Facility at the Indiana Department of
Correction with a copy of this order and ...