United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
D. Peterson District Judge.
Alphoncy Dangerfield, appearing pro se, is an inmate at
Oshkosh Correctional Institution. Dangerfield alleges that
when he was incarcerated at Wisconsin Secure Program
Facility, prison officials violated his right to practice
Islam by denying him meals timed to accommodate his fasting
during Ramadan. Dangerfield brings claims under the First
Amendment's Free Exercise Clause, the Fourteenth
Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, and the Religious
Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Defendants have
filed a motion for partial summary judgment only on
Dangerfield's equal protection claim, based on
Dangerfield's alleged failure to exhaust the
administrative remedies on that claim. Dkt. 23. Dangerfield
has filed his own motion for summary judgment on the merits
of his free exercise and RLUIPA claims. Dkt. 14. I will grant
defendants' exhaustion-based motion and dismiss
Dangerfield's equal protection claim. I will deny
Dangerfield's motion for summary judgment on the merits
of his claims.
the Prison Litigation Reform Act, “[n]o action shall be
brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983
of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner . . .
until such administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The exhaustion
requirement is mandatory and applies to all inmate suits.
Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81 (2006); Porter v.
Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002). Section 1997e(a)
requires “proper exhaustion, ” Woodford,
548 U.S. at 93; Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022,
1025 (7th Cir. 2002), which means that the prisoner must
follow prison rules when filing the initial grievance and all
necessary appeals, “in the place, and at the time, the
prison's administrative rules require.” Burrell
v. Powers, 431 F.3d 282, 284-85 (7th Cir. 2005).
alleges that he requested to be placed on the Ramadan-meal
list, but that request was denied because he did not make it
before the 60-day deadline for such a request. Defendants
contend that Dangerfield's inmate grievance about the
denial of his request to be placed on the Ramadan-meal list
did not serve to exhaust his equal protection claim because
it did not put prison officials on notice that Dangerfield
was complaining about Muslim inmates being treated
differently from anyone else. In his complaint in this
lawsuit, Dangerfield says that his request to be placed on
the Ramadan list was denied for being past the deadline for
such requests, but that prison officials overlook similar
deadlines for Jewish inmates. In his inmate grievance,
Dangerfield complained only about the denial itself; he did
not state that inmates of other faiths were allowed to ignore
the deadlines. See Dkt. 25-2, at 10.
contends that he is not required to state in his grievance
every legal theory underpinning his claims, citing Wine
v. Pollard, No. 08-cv-173-bbc, 2008 WL 4379236, at *2
(W.D. Wis. Sept. 23, 2008). He is correct that he doesn't
need to articulate each theory. But he does need to
“alert[ ] the prison to the nature of the wrong for
which redress is sought.” Strong v. David, 297
F.3d 646, 650 (7th Cir. 2002). And the state of Wisconsin at
least requires that the complaint “must contain
sufficient information for the department to investigate and
decide the complaint.” Wis. Admin. Code §
court has previously dismissed retaliation claims when an
inmate's grievance did not identify the protected conduct
that provoked the retaliation and the retaliatory act,
because without those facts, the grievance examiner would not
be alerted to the nature of the problem the inmate is
complaining about. E.g., Lockett v. Goff,
No. 17-cv-93-jdp, 2017 WL 4083594, at *2 (W.D. Wis. Sept. 13,
2017); Sheahan v. Suliene, No. 12-cv-433-bbc, at
*3-4 (W.D. Wis. May 24, 2013). I conclude that Dangerfield
has a similar problem here. Dangerfield alerted the examiner
to what he believed was an inappropriate denial of his right
to exercise his religion, which is enough to exhaust his
religion-based claims. But the nature of his equal protection
claim is that his request was treated differently that
requests made by Jewish inmates, which suggests a system-wide
problem with discrepancies in the religious-meal-request
process. Dangerfield did not put the examiner on notice about
this problem. So I conclude that Dangerfield's grievance
was not specific enough to exhaust an equal protection claim,
and I will dismiss that claim without prejudice for
Dangerfield's failure to exhaust it. Ford v.
Johnson, 362 F.3d 395, 401 (7th Cir. 2004) (dismissal
for failure to exhaust is always without prejudice).
Dangerfield may find it difficult to exhaust his claim now
because so much time has passed since the events at issue.
Dangerfield's motion for partial summary
leaves Dangerfield's free exercise and RLUIPA claims.
Dangerfield moved for summary judgment on the merits of these
claims very early in the proceedings, immediately following
the court's December 11, 2018 preliminary pretrial
conference. The court postponed defendants' opposition
briefing to coincide with defendants' own motion for
summary judgment on the merits, following a ruling on the
exhaustion motion. See Dkt. 30. But even without the
benefit of an opposition, I conclude that Dangerfield does
not support his claims with enough detail for a reasonable
jury to conclude that he is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
can obtain only declaratory and injunctive relief through
RLUIPA, not damages. See Grayson v. Schuler, 666
F.3d 450, 541 (7th Cir. 2012); Vinning-El v. Evans,
657 F.3d 591 (7th Cir. 2011). I previously dismissed a
similar RLUIPA claim as moot when one could only speculate
about whether the restriction still burdened the prisoner.
See Brim v. Donovan, No. 15-cv-658-jdp, 2017 WL
3972519, at *11 (W.D. Wis. Sept. 7, 2017). Dangerfield does
not explain why he thinks the signup rule is going to be a
problem for him in the future: he's aware of the deadline
now and he's been moved to a new institution. Dangerfield
says that it's unfair that he was denied Ramadan
meals while Jewish inmates are granted deadline exceptions
for their religious meals, but that isn't the same as
showing how the deadline is a burden for him.
regard to Dangerfield's free exercise claims, Dangerfield
must show that the challenged restriction is not reasonably
related to a legitimate penological interest. Turner v.
Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987); see also O'Lone
v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342 (1987). This requires
the court to consider four factors: (1) whether there is a
“valid, rational connection” between the
restriction and a legitimate governmental interest; (2)
whether the prisoner retains alternatives for exercising the
right; (3) the impact that accommodation of the right will
have on prison administration; and (4) whether there are
other ways that prison officials can achieve the same goals
without encroaching on the right. Turner, 482 U.S.
at 89-91. Common sense dictates, and my experience with
Ramadan-meal cases confirms, that the Department of
Corrections has at least some logistical rationale for
forcing prisoners to sign up for Ramadan meals months in
advance of the fast. See, e.g., Riley v.
Ewing, No. 15-cv-592-jdp, 2019 WL 188511, at *2 (W.D.
Wis. Jan. 14, 2019) (prison officials order food for Ramadan
meals different from that for ordinary meals because the
Ramadan-meal items are meant to last until the morning, and
staff needs to adjust its usual food order to account for
dozens of prisoners ordering those special meals).
only evidence submitted in support of his free exercise
claims are his own one-page declaration and a religious
publication describing the importance of Ramadan. Dkt. 17 and
Dkt. 17-1. I recognize the importance of Ramadan to
Muslims in general and to Dangerfield in particular. But
Dangerfield does not discuss how meals are provided at WSPF
or otherwise develop a case for why the deadline here fails
to pass muster under the Turner factors. So I will
deny his motion for summary judgment.
that does not mean that Dangerfield is foreclosed from having
judgment entered in his favor later in the case. When
defendants file their own motion for summary judgment
(I'll set a new deadline for that motion in the order
below), Dangerfield will have the opportunity to submit
proposed findings about Ramadan meals and the prison's
provision of those meals, to support his claims. If the later
summary judgment briefing shows that ...