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Jones v. West

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

July 17, 2018

JUMAR JONES, Plaintiff,



         On February 28, 2017, the court gave the plaintiff an opportunity to file a second amended complaint. Dkt. No. 9. The court received the amended complaint on March 21, 2017. Dkt. No. 11. The law requires the court to screen complaints, including amended complaints, brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint if the plaintiff raises claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b).

         To state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, “that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows a court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         To proceed under 42 U.S.C. §1983, a plaintiff must allege that: 1) he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and 2) the defendant was acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. Cty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). I will give a pro se plaintiff's allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         A. The Plaintiff's Allegations

         In 2016, Ramadan started on June 7 and ended on July 6, see (last visited on July 14, 2018). On April 14, 2016, the plaintiff learned from other inmates that a sign-up sheet to receive bagged meals during Ramadan had been posted in the chapel for a couple of weeks; the deadline to sign up was April 7, nearly two months prior to Ramadan. Dkt. No. 11 at ¶12.

         The plaintiff sent defendant Chaplain Michael Donovan an interview/information request, stating,

It is our understanding that this year's Ramadan deadline was April 7? If this is the case, there are numerous Muslim inmates who received no notice of Ramadan. If this is your policy not to issue timely notice, then you have imposed a ‘substantial burden' and have put inmates who had wish[ed] to participate cannot [sic], because they can't afford the cost of providing their own meals. Can you please explain why you didn't issue a[n] institution wide memo stating the start of Ramadan and the deadline to sign up for ‘all' Muslim inmates? Thank you.”


         Donovan responded the next day, telling the plaintiff, “I was directed by management that I could post an announcement only in the chapel and library.” Id. at ¶13. The plaintiff and another inmate spoke to Donovan later that day about not being added to the bagged meal list. Id. at ¶14. Donovan explained that there had been a change in policy about notification; all notifications for religious celebrations would be posted only in the chapel or library. Id. The plaintiff asked why religious notifications were being handled differently from other non-religious notifications. Id. Donovan stated that he did not know and he could not put the inmates on the bagged meal list. Id. Donovan instructed the inmates to write to defendant Michelle Haese at social services. Id.

         That same day, the plaintiff sent a letter to Haese, asking her to add him to the bagged meal list for Ramadan. Id. at ¶15. The plaintiff explained that earlier in the year, Native American services had been posted. Id. He also observed that the policy seemed unfair because non-religious notices were still posted institution-wide and not all inmates attend the chapel or library regularly. Id.

         The next day, on April 16, 2016, Haese responded to the plaintiff and denied his request to receive bagged meals during Ramadan. Id. at ¶16. She explained that in the past, Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI) had put “congregate” meal date notifications on “institution Channel 8;” however, in 2016, the institution changed its policy, posting notification of multi-day religious meal accommodation and congregate meal dates only in the chapel, library and on restricted housing unit (RSHU) carts. Id. Haese explained that the new policy was in line with Department of Adult Institutions (DAI) policy and was comparable to the procedures of other maximum security sites. Id.

         On April 19, 2016, the plaintiff sent a letter to defendant warden Scott Eckstein, explaining his communications with Donovan and Haese. Id. at ¶17. The plaintiff asked Eckstein to allow him and the other inmates who did not know about the sign-up deadline to participate. Id. According to the plaintiff, Eckstein did not respond to the letter, but he met with the plaintiff and two other inmates on April 22, 2016. Id. at ¶18.

         Eckstein allegedly explained that he was new at GBCI, and he asked the inmates how the notification system worked and why Donovan and Haese had denied their requests to receive bagged meals during Ramadan. Id. The plaintiff explained the change in the notification policy as it related to religious observances. Id. Eckstein asked why the plaintiff did not attend chapel or go to the library. Id. The plaintiff explained that there was a lot of gang activity and fighting at the chapel services and his faith did not require that he attend services there. Id. He also explained that access to the library is very limited, with passes being handed out only once per week. Id. He stated that he has gone weeks without going to the library because of misplaced passes. Id. The plaintiff asked Eckstein why he had not responded to the plaintiff's letter; Eckstein said he was busy and needed time. Id. The plaintiff asserts that Eckstein never responded. Id.

         On April 24, 2016, the plaintiff sent an inmate complaint to defendant Alan DeGroot, asking that he be allowed to receive bagged meals during Ramadan. Id. at ¶19. The plaintiff explained that he did not know about the sign-up deadline because of the change in policy. Id. DeGroot denied the plaintiff's request, and explained that the new policy was consistent with the DAI policy requiring that notice be placed in the chapel and library and on the RSHU carts. Id. He said posting notifications on channel 8 is only a courtesy. Id. DeGroot also said that he could not make an exception to the sign-up deadline because it would be discriminatory if one group got an exception but others did not. Id. DeGroot told the plaintiff that inmates are responsible for ...

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