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Hilton Karriem Mincy v. Warden Deparlos

March 24, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner


Plaintiff Hilton Karriem Mincy ("Mincy"), a state inmate presently in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), and formerly housed at the Lycoming County Prison ("LCP"), Pennsylvania, commenced this civil rights action on March 20, 2008. (Doc. 1). The matter is proceeding via an amended complaint. (Doc. 24.) Presently ripe for disposition are cross motions for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Docs. 57, 74.) For the reasons set forth below, Mincy's motion (Doc. 74) will be denied and defendants' motion (Doc. 57) will be granted.

I. Standard of Review

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the movant is entitled to summary judgment if it "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a).*fn1 In pertinent part, parties moving for, or opposing, summary judgment must support their position by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." FED. R. CIV.P.56(c)(1)(A). "The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Colwell v. Rite-Aid Corp., 602 F.3d 495, 501 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)).

II. Statement of Facts

With the above standard of review in mind, the following are the facts material to the cross motions for summary judgment.

Mincy came into the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections on September 28, 1998, to serve a sentence of seventeen to forty years incarceration. (Doc. 58, ¶ 10; Doc. 88, ¶ 10.) During the following dates, he was temporarily housed at LCP in relation to pending appearls or petitions for post conviction relief: September 21, 2007 to October 8, 2007; March 19, 2008 to April 11, 2008; June 10, 2008 to June 17, 2008; and August 6, 2008 to August 18, 2008. (Doc. 58, ¶¶ 11, 13; Doc. 88, ¶ 11, 13.) In 2007, he was examined by the medical department and represented that he was not taking any prescription medication for seasonal allergies, but, rather, purchased allergy medication from the commissary at the state correctional institution from which he was transferred. (Doc. 75, ¶¶ 5-6.) Mincy's religious classification is documented as Muslim at LCP. (Doc. 75, ¶ 68; Doc. 75, ¶ 68.) Although he has not been incarcerated there since August 18, 2008, he represents that he is still pursing mandamus and habeas corpus relief in the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County. (Doc. 58, ¶¶ 12-14; Doc. 88, ¶¶ 12-14.)

The Lycoming County Prison Board is statutorily created by 61 P.S. 401 and is made up of the following seven members: the President Judge; the District Attorney; the three County Commissioners; the Sheriff; and the County Controller. (Doc. 58, ¶ 15; Doc. 88, ¶ 15.) The day-to-day decisions and most policy decisions are delegated to the prison administration, which consists of Deputy Warden Steven Blank ("Blank"), Deputy Warden of Treatment Timothy Mahoney (Mahoney), and Warden Kevin Deparlos ("Deparlos"). (Doc. 58, ¶ 16; Doc. 88, ¶ 16.) Decisions concerning inmates' observations of religious holidays, services and special events are made by the prison administration without direct input from, or involvement of, the prison board. (Doc. 58, ¶ 17.) The prison board has never passed a policy or put in place a procedure addressing accommodating inmates' observation of religious holidays, services or special events. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Decisions relative to accommodating inmates' observation of religious holidays, services and special events are governed by security concerns and the operational needs of the prison. (Doc. 58, ¶ 19; Doc. 88, ¶ 19.)

A. Religious Services

The volunteer prison chaplain, Andy France ("Chaplain France"), coordinates religious services and volunteers to perform those services. (Doc. 58, ¶ 29; Doc. 88, ¶ 29.) Inmates are required to send requests to attend a religious service or meeting to Chaplain France within one week of the service. (Doc. 75, ¶ 105; Doc. 75-6, at 3, ¶ 22.) According to Warden Deparlos, the procedure is as follows:

For all religious services and meetings of all denominations: Inmates are required to send requests to attend a religious service or meeting to the Prison Chaplain, Father Andy France, within one week of the service. Chaplain France creates a list of inmates for each of the religious services based on the requests he received. This process is required of all inmates who desire to attend a religious service or meeting including the Friday, Jumah religious services, weekend Christian religious services, and Catholic religious services. (Doc. 88-2, ¶ 22.)

LCP administration has worked with Muslim leader Imam Abdul Pathan ("Imam Pathan") since approximately 2000 to provide Muslim religious services for Muslim inmates.*fn2 (Doc. 58, ¶ 20; Doc. 88, ¶ 20.) Imam Pathan, a full-time professor at a local college, provides the prison administration with guidance relative to the Muslim religion, beliefs, customs, and requirements. (Doc. 58, at ¶¶ 23-26.) Mandatory Muslim Jumah service is conducted on Fridays. (Doc. 58, ¶ 21; (Doc. 88, ¶ 21.) Talim services, which are Quran studies, are also offered. (Doc. 58, ¶ 22; Doc. 88 ¶ 22.) Although Imam Pathan regularly holds Friday Jumah services, there are times when there are no community volunteers available to perform the Talim services. (Doc. 58, ¶ 82; Doc. 88, ¶ 82.)

There are also times when inmates are not permitted to attend religious services because of the security concerns or operational needs. (Doc. 58, ¶ 83; Doc. 88, ¶ 83.) Security concerns include new inmates who are in Administrative detention awaiting classification; inmates in Disciplinary detention or in the Special Management Unit for reasons of discipline, health or suicide watch; inmates who are required to be segregated from certain other inmates because they are of different gang affiliation, co-defendants, potential witnesses against other inmates, informants or perceived informants; and those inmates who have threatened or carried out violence against other inmates (collectively called Separations). (Doc. 58, ¶ 84; Doc. 88, ¶ 84.) Operational needs in clude inmate compliance with sign-up requirements to attend religious services; availability of volunteers from the community such as Ministers, Priests and Imams to conduct religious services; availability of the multi-purpose room where all religious services are conducted; and operational flow of the Prison as all religious services would be terminated or prohibited during a lock-down of the Prison. (Doc. 58, ¶ 85; Doc. 88, ¶ 85.) For instance, because Mincy had just been recommitted to LCP on March 19, 2008, and he was not on the list of inmates who requested to attend Jumah created by the chaplain, he was not able to attend Jumah service on March 21, 2008. (Doc. 75, ¶ 74; Doc. 90, ¶ 74.) He sent a request slip on March 25, 2008, and was permitted to attend Jumah services thereafter. (Doc. 75, ¶ 75; Doc. 90, ¶ 75.) Mincy adds that while there is a "sign-up sheet for Church Services," Muslim inmates are made to send request slips to staff to attend Islamic services. (Doc. 88, ¶ 85.) Defendants represent that the security and operational restrictions imposed are applicable to all religious services/observations including Christians and Muslims. (Doc. 58, ¶ 87.) Mincy does not believe this to be the case. (Doc. 88, ¶ 87.)

B. Meal Service

Inmates are required to send a request slip to Chaplain France if they want to participate in the Ramadan fast. (Doc. 58, ¶ 30; Doc. 88; ¶ 30.) He then confirms that the inmates have listed their religion as Muslim upon commitment to LCP, or submitted a change of religious preference form indicating that their preferred religion is Muslim. (Doc. 58, ¶ 31; Doc. 88, ¶ 31.) A list of those inmates who are eligible to participate in the Ramadan fast is generated and provided to Mahoney and Blank. (Id.) The deputy wardens then communicate this information to LCP Food Service Supervisor, Robert Pulizzi ("Pulizzi"), a certified Serve-Safe Food Handler who understands and implements proper food preparation, handling and storage. (Doc. 58, ¶¶ 32-33; Doc. 88, ¶ 32.) Pulizzi also receives a list from either Blank or Mahoney, prepared by Imam Pathan, which states the times each day when the fast is to begin and end. (Doc. 58, ¶¶ 42-43, 86; Doc. 88, ¶¶ 42-43, 86.)

Each year, Pulizzi prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner menus for a six-week period. (Id. at ¶ 34.) Pulizzi submits the six-week menus to Susan Browning ("Browning"), a Registered Dietician employed full time at Susquehanna Health Systems, to review for nutritional balance and caloric intake. (Id. at ¶ 35.) Once Browning certifies the menus for nutritional balance and caloric intake, Pulizzi implements the menus on a rotating six-week cycle throughout the year. (Id. at ¶ 36.) There are holidays throughout the year when LCP deviates from the six-week menus and serves a different menu such as Memorial Day; Fourth of July; Labor Day; Easter; Thanksgiving; Christmas; New Years Day; and beginning in 2008, a special menu at the conclusion of Ramadan to accommodate the Ramadan Feast. (Doc. 58, ¶ 37; Doc. 75, ¶¶ 92-95, 98; Doc. 90, ¶¶ 92-95, 98.)

Imam Pathan provides prison administration with the dates for the Holy Month of Ramadan each year and the daily fasting times as they differ slightly from day to day. (Doc. 58, ¶ 27; Doc. 88, ¶ 27.) In 2007, breakfast was prepared between 5:15 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. (Doc. 58, ¶ 38; Doc. 88, ¶ 38.) During the month of Ramadan, it was prepared between 4:30 a.m. and 5:15 a.m., depending on when the daily fast begins. (Doc. 58, ¶ 39; Doc. 88, ¶ 39.) Inmates observing Ramadan were served breakfast between 5:00 a.m. and 5:45 a.m. , depending on when they begin observing the fast that day. (Doc. 58, ¶ 40; Doc. 88, ¶ 40.) Inmates not observing Ramadan were served breakfast beginning at 7:15 a.m. (Doc. 58, ¶ 41; Doc. 88, ¶ 41.)

In 2007 the dinner meals were prepared between noon and 3:40 p.m. (Doc. 58, ¶ 54; Doc. 88, ¶ 54.) In 2007 and 2008, the dinner meals for inmates not observing Ramadan were normally served in the blocks beginning at 4:20 p.m. (Doc. 58, ¶ 55; Doc. 88, ¶ 55.) The dinner meals for inmates observing Ramadan were kept in warming trays until between 6:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; reheated thoroughly, dished into Styrofoam containers, placed on a cart, and served to those inmates once the fast was over that evening. (Doc. 58, ¶ 56.) Pulizzi, was of the opinion that the Styrofoam containers would keep the food warm until the conclusion of the Ramadan fast at night. (Doc. 90, ¶ 81.) It is conceded, however, that kitchen staff did not test the food temperatures prior to serving the meals. (Doc. 75, ¶ 81; Doc. 90, ¶ 81.) Beginning in 2008, the dinner meals for inmates observing Ramadan were kept warm by placing them in warming units called cambro units.*fn3 (Doc. 75, ¶ 99; Doc. 90, ¶ 90.) The prison kitchen is secured and closed each evening by 6:30 p.m. (Doc. 58, ¶ 59; Doc. 88, ¶ 59.)

The Sunday lunch is traditionally a hot meal and dinner is "Chef's Choice." (Doc. 75, ¶ 89; Doc. 90, ¶ 89.) Those inmates observing Ramadan were served the hot lunch meal as their dinner meal. (Doc. 75, ¶ 91; Doc. 90, ¶ 91.)

In 2007, Ramadan was observed from September 13, 2007 until October 13, 2007, and in 2008, it was observed from September 1, 2008 until October 1, 2008. (Doc. 58, ¶¶ 88-89; Doc. 88, ¶¶ 88-89.) Mincy was incarcerated at LCP during part of Ramadan in 2007, September 21, 2007 until October 8, 2007. (Doc. 58, ¶ 90; Doc. 88, ¶ 90.)*fn4 On September 24, 2007, during Ramadan, Blank received a grievance from Mincy complaining that he was not receiving enough food. (Doc. 58, ¶ 45; Doc. 75, ¶ 34; Doc. 88, ¶ 45; Doc. 90, ¶ 34.) As a direct result of the grievance, Blank inquired of Pulizzi how the inmates are compensated nutritionally and calorically during the month of Ramadan since they do not eat lunch. (Doc. 58, ¶ 46.) Pulizzi advised that the inmates observing the Ramadan fast were served additional food at breakfast and at dinner in order to compensate for missing lunch. (Id. at ¶ 47.) Specifically, he supplied inmates observing Ramadan with one and one-half the amount of food normally served for breakfast and dinner. (Id. at ¶ 48.) Pulizzi advised Blank that the inmates observing Ramadan were receiving sufficient nutrition and sufficient calories in 2007 and 2008 as a result of the increased serving amount at breakfast and dinner. (Id. at ¶ 52.) Even though the inmates observing Ramadan were being adequately fed, Blank authorized Pulizzi to put an additional piece of fruit on the breakfast trays of inmates observing Ramadan in order to address Mincy's perception that he was not being adequately fed. (Id. at ¶ 53; Doc. 75, ¶ 56; Doc. 90, ¶ 56.) Based on the request of Imam Pathan, a feast was held at the conclusion of Ramadan in 2008 and 2009 for those Muslim inmates participating in Ramadan. (Doc. 58, ¶¶ 28, 69; Doc. 88 ¶ 69.) According to Mincy, prior to this time, prison administration had ignored requests for such a feast. (Doc. 88, ¶ 28.) He also states that his request to take allergy medication before and after the Ramadan fast was denied. (Doc. 75, ¶ 9.)

C. Distribution of Religious Materials/Religious Holidays

LCP does not purchase or distribute Bibles, Qurans or other religious materials. (Doc. 58, ¶ 62; Doc. 88, ¶ 62.) Rather, the prison relies on contributions from religious institutions and organizations. (Doc. 58, ¶ 62; Doc. 88, ¶ 62.) After the donated materials pass a security screening, they are distributed to inmates by the religious volunteers. (Doc. 58, ¶ 63; Doc. 88, ¶ 63.) Typically, LCP has several churches or religious organizations which donate Bibles and, thus, Bibles are readily available to the Christian inmates requesting them. (Doc. 58, ¶ 64; Doc. 88, ¶ 64.) Until approximately four years ago, the Saudi Arabian Consulate in New York City donated Qurans to LCP for Muslim inmates which were plentiful enough to provide Qurans to all of the Muslim inmates requesting them. (Doc. 58, ¶ 65; Doc. 88, ¶ 65.) Over the past four years, the LCP administration has made several inquiries of various Muslim organizations to determine if Qurans are available for donation to the prison Muslim population. (Doc. 58, ¶ 66; Doc. 88, ¶ 66.) Imam Pathan brings Qurans periodically to the Prison for distribution, but has advised LCP that the local Mosque has limited means, thus, it does not have the funds to supply enough Qurans to distribute to all of the Muslim inmates. (Doc. 58, ¶ 67; Doc. 88, ¶ 67.)

LCP does not purchase or prepare Christmas bags, Easter candy or religious materials. (Doc. 58, ¶ 70; Doc. 88, ¶ 70; Doc. 90, ¶ 100.) Religious institutions and organizations have the option to prepare holiday bags for inmates, and, upon Blank's approval and security clearance, the bags are distributed to all inmates unless security restrictions apply to particular inmates. (Doc. 58, ¶ 71; Doc. 88, ¶ 71; Doc. 75, ¶ 96; Doc. 90, ¶ 96.) In recent history the Salvation Army donated Christmas bags to the LCP inmate population. (Doc. 58, ¶ 72; Doc. 88, ¶ 72.) Likewise, only the Salvation Army donated Easter candy to the inmate population. (Doc. 58, ¶ 73; Doc. 88, ¶ 73.) LCP has not been approached by a Muslim Mosque or other Muslim institutions or organizations with requests to distribute holiday bags, candy or other materials. (Doc. 58, ¶ 75; Doc. 88, ¶ 75.) LCP would have distributed holiday bags, candy or other materials if received from the Muslim Mosques or other Muslim religious institutions or organizations, provided the donated materials passed through security clearance. (Doc. 58, ¶ ...

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