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Ruffin v. Hinkley

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 21, 2018

DANIEL ONEIL RUFFIN, Plaintiff
v.
JOHN HINKLEY, et al., Defendants

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

         In this action, Plaintiff Daniel Ruffin alleges Defendants[1] discriminated against him based on his religion and grievance activity while he was an inmate at the Knox County Jail. The matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 30.)

         Through their motion, Defendants contend summary judgment is appropriate because Plaintiff failed to exhaust the available administrative remedies before initiating this action, and because the record will not support a finding that Defendants violated Plaintiff's clearly established constitutional rights. Plaintiff did not file a response to the motion.[2]

         Following a review of the record, I recommend the Court grant Defendants' motion.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT FACTS [3]

         Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Knox County Jail beginning on November 17, 2016. (Defendants' Statement of Material Facts (DSMF) ¶ 1.) Plaintiff remained incarcerated at the Knox County Jail until he was transferred to the Cumberland County Jail on June 8, 2017. (Id. ¶ 2.) While this action was pending, Defendant Hinkley transferred Plaintiff from the Knox County Jail to the Cumberland County Jail because, Defendant Hinkley asserts, the Cumberland County Jail has more inmates who identify as Muslim and provides more religious services for Muslim inmates. (Id. ¶ 3; Affidavit of John Hinkley ¶ 3, ECF No. 31-5.)[4]

         Plaintiff's Incarceration at the Knox County Jail

         Throughout his detention at the Knox County Jail, Plaintiff was classified as minimum security. (DSNF ¶ 6.) Following an initial period in “booking, ” on November 22, 2016, Plaintiff was moved to a cell in a medium security pod. (Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff remained in a medium security pod the entire time he was incarcerated at the Knox County Jail. (Id. ¶ 8.)

         With the exception of the occasional maximum security inmate who is held temporarily pending transfer to another facility, the Knox County Jail only has minimum and medium security inmates. (Id. ¶ 9.) While there are separate minimum and medium security pods, minimum and medium security inmates are often assigned to the same pods at the Knox County Jail. (Id. ¶¶ 11 - 12.) An inmate's cell assignment depends on the inmate's classification, space availability in the jail, and the inmate's conduct. Race, religion, and grievance activity are not factors that are considered in housing decisions within the Knox County Jail. (Id. ¶ 14.) Knox County Jail Policy & Procedure No. D-100, entitled “Inmate Classification and Security, ” is an official policy and procedure of the Knox County Jail and was in effect while Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Knox County Jail. (Id. ¶ 41; Policy D-100, ECF No. 31-12.)

         In his verified complaint, Plaintiff asserts he is African American, and that while he was in a medium security pod, three white inmates were moved from the pod into a minimum security pod ahead of him. (Complaint at 6, ECF No. 1.) On January 6, 2017, Plaintiff was locked down for approximately two hours after he became upset during recreation and refused to walk to his cell. (DSMF ¶ 15.) On January 10, 2017, Defendant Gardner, a lieutenant at the Knox County Jail, denied Plaintiff's request to move to minimum security because of his conduct. (Id. ¶ 16.) In January 2017, Plaintiff was also found to have contacted the victim of his crime by phone. The contact would make it unlikely Plaintiff would be moved to a minimum-security section. (Id. ¶ 17.)

         On April 4, 2017, Plaintiff was asked if he wanted to move to the minimum section. Plaintiff declined and said that he was comfortable in his medium cell. (Id. ¶ 18.) In June 2017, four minimum security pods were closed because of a lack of staffing, and some inmates were sent to other jails. The only minimum pod that remained open was for inmates with trustee status. (Id. ¶ 19.)

         Accommodation of Religion

         Knox County Jail administrators do not purchase religious books or items for inmates. (Id. ¶ 20.) When Plaintiff was first incarcerated at the Knox County Jail, the jail did not have a Qur'an. (Id. ¶ 22.) Although Knox County Jail has Bibles available for inmates, the Bibles were donated to the Jail by volunteers. (Id. ¶ 21.) After Plaintiff requested a Qur'an, Defendant McFarland contacted the Maine State Prison and Cumberland County Jail to inquire how to obtain a Qur'an. He learned that the Islamic Society of North America provides Qur'ans to jails.[5] (Id. ¶ 23.) A Knox County Jail staff member or administrator requested several Qur'ans from the Islamic Society of North America. (Id. ¶ 24.) The Qur'ans arrived in January 2017, and on January 11, 2017, Defendant Gardner issued Plaintiff a Muslim Prayer Focus book, a Qur'an, a brown kufi hat, and prayer oil. (Id. ¶¶ 25 - 28.) Plaintiff completed an inmate request for a St. Christopher medallion, on January 16, 2017, and that Defendant Gardner provided Plaintiff the St. Christopher's medallion on January 20, 2017.[6] (Id. ¶¶ 31 - 32.)

         Before the start of Ramadan observation in 2017, the jail made arrangements with the kitchen to have the evening meal served at approximately 8:00 p.m., and the morning meal at approximately 4:00 a.m. (Id. ¶ 33.) During Ramadan, Plaintiff was provided meals in accordance with this directive. (Id. ¶ 35.)

         Knox County Jail Policy & Procedure, No. 15.200, entitled “Religious Services, ” is an official policy and procedure of the Knox County Jail and was in effect when Plaintiff was incarcerated there. (Id. ¶ 37; Policy 15.200, ECF No. 31-11.)

         Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         Knox County Jail Policy & Procedure, No. 11.300, entitled “Inmate Grievances, ” is an official policy and procedure of the Knox County Jail and was in effect when Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Knox County Jail. (DSMF ¶ 42; Policy 11.300, ECF No. 31-13.) The grievance policy provides that “a grievance may be initiated by an inmate for an alleged violation of civil, constitutional, or statutory rights; an alleged criminal or prohibited act by a staff member; or to resolve a condition existing within the Jail that creates unsafe or unsanitary living conditions; or to resolve a chronic condition existing within the Jail that contradicts the Maine State Jail Standards.” (DSMF ¶ 44.)

         The first step in the grievance procedure is for an inmate to file a Level 1 grievance, which is answered by a supervisor. (Id. ¶ 45.) If an inmate is not satisfied with the response to a Level 1 grievance, the inmate may file an Administrative Grievance (Level 2), which is generally answered by Defendant Gardner, but is occasionally answered by Defendant Hinkley. (Id. ΒΆ 46.) If an inmate believes the grievance has not been addressed in compliance with standards at the Administrative Grievance level, the inmate may file an appeal, first to the Knox County Sheriff and ...


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