United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Dominic J. Squatrito United States District Judge
plaintiff, Dashante Jones, commenced this civil rights action
against correctional officials at Cheshire Correctional
Institution (“Cheshire”) and Northern
Correctional Institution (“Northern”). He
contends that he was denied religious services while confined
in the Administrative Segregation Program in violation of his
First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The defendants have
filed a motion for summary judgment. Although informed of his
obligation to respond to the motion, the plaintiff has not
filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion for summary
judgment. For the reasons that follow, the defendants'
motion is granted.
Standard of Review
motion for summary judgment may be granted only where there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56(a),
Fed. R. Civ. P.; In re Dana Corp., 574 F.3d 129, 151
(2d Cir. 2009). The moving party may satisfy his burden
“by showing-that is pointing out to the district
court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case.” PepsiCo, Inc. v.
Coca-Cola Co., 315 F.3d 101, 105 (2d Cir. 2002) (per
curiam) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Once the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party
must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial. Wright v. Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 266
(2d Cir. 2009). He must present such evidence as would allow
a jury to find in his favor to defeat the motion for summary
judgment. Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34,
38 (2d Cir. 2000). The nonmoving party “must offer some
hard evidence showing that its version of the events is not
wholly fanciful.” D'Amico v. City of New
York, 132 F.3d 145, 149 (2d Cir. 1998).
plaintiff was first admitted to the custody of the Department
of Correction in August 1998. Since then, he has been
discharged and readmitted several times and transferred among
correctional facilities on multiple occasions. On some
occasions after readmission or transfer, the plaintiff
received inmate orientation. The orientation procedures
sometimes included information on inmate grievance
procedures. At each orientation session, the plaintiff
received an inmate handbook which included information about
inmate grievance procedures.
23, 2014, after being charged with assault on Department of
Correction staff, the plaintiff was transferred to Northern
and placed in Administrative Segregation, a program for
inmates with behavioral problems posing a threat to the
safety and security of other inmates and staff who cannot
safely be managed in the general population. The program has
three phases. Phase I is at Northern, while Phases II and III
are at Cheshire. Inmates progress through the phase program
based on their individual behavior and participation in
required classes and groups.
safety and security reasons, inmates in Phase I are not given
access to programs offered in the general population.
Communal religious services is one such program. Instead, at
least once a week, each Phase I inmate is offered personal
visits by a chaplain of his faith for religious services.
Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and Native American
chaplains are available.
of Correction clinical staff offer a program called
“Start Now” to inmates in Phase I of
Administrative Segregation. The program consists of 34
sessions. Only three inmates may participate in the program
at any time because, during the program, the inmates are
confined individually in booths and only three booths are
available. Inmates do not participate in this program in a
communal setting for safety and security reasons. The booths
are located in the visiting area of the prison. The plaintiff
did not utilize the booths in connection with the
“Start Now” program, but did utilize them for
“Prison Rape Elimination Act” training.
booths are not used for communal religious services. Brian
Jackson, the administrative captain at Northern, explained
that “it would be administratively and operationally
difficult, if not impossible, to offer regular religious
services to all A/S Phase I inmates with just three
booths.” Defs.' Mem. Ex. C, ECF No. 26-5, ¶ 5.
There are usually between 20 and 25 inmates in Phase I. The
inmates have different faiths and, therefore, different
chaplains. The booths can accommodate the Start Now program
because there are only a few inmates at any time beginning
Phase I. Other inmates are progressing through the program or
graduating to Phase II. Using the booths for religious
services would be impractical because of the multiple faiths
present in the Phase I population and the availability of
chaplains to conduct the multiple services.
alternative, Muslim inmates in Phase I have access to
personal visits from a Muslim chaplain at least once a week
and are allowed to retain possession of a copy of the Quran,
a Kufi and a prayer rug. They can pray in their cells and
order additional religious reading materials. In addition,
they are provided with an alternate diet that conforms to
their religious dietary requirements and accommodations are
made to meal schedules during Muslim feast and fast days.
January 6, 2015, the plaintiff was transferred to Cheshire to
begin Phase II of the Administrative Segregation Program.
Phases II and III are a continuation of the program begun at
Northern. Because inmates in Phase II have been identified as
having behavioral problems that constitute a threat to
institutional safety and security and are not able to be
safely managed in the general population, the inmates again
are not provided the same programs offered to general
population inmates, including communal religious services. As
in Phase I, Phase II and III inmates are offered personal
visits with a chaplain of their faith at least once per week,
have access to religious materials, and can pray in their
admission to Phase II, an inmate is assigned to a small group
of 3-4 inmates and remains with that group through Phase III.
The inmates in the group have all started the program at
approximately the same time and advance through the program
together. Group assignment is not based on religion, so
multiple religions are represented in any group. Currently,
there are 4-6 groups.
Phase II, each small group attends an anger management
program twice per week. The program is conducted by a
counselor. In Phase III, a recreation supervisor conducts
group social activities for each small group about twice per
week. These activities are held in a small room in the
Administrative Segregation block. The room, about 14' by
16', cannot safely house more ...