United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
JAMES W. ROLLINS, Plaintiff,
GARY WAKEMAN, et al., Defendant.
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
B. LEIGHTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
reviewed the entire record, including the administrative
record, the memoranda of the parties, and the Report and
Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge J. Richard
Creatura, and there being no objection filed by any party,
the Court hereby ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation.
However, despite agreeing with the Magistrate Judge's
conclusion, the following is intended to clarify the
Court's reasons for adopting the Report and
Rollins, who is currently in the custody of the Washington
State Department of Corrections (DOC), wished to participate
in his prison's Ramadan meal program. The DOC provides a
Ramadan meal and prayer program that allows inmates to
receive meals within the dietary restrictions before sunrise
and after sunset to facilitate fasting. However, the DOC
recently enacted a new sign-up procedure intended to limit
program participation to inmates who have demonstrated their
sincerely-held beliefs. The process gives priority to inmates
who have attended some Muslim religious programming in the
last six months or have signed up to receive Halal meals.
There are also discretionary exceptions for inmates who
cannot meet these requirements. Rollins attempted to sign up
but was denied participation because he did not satisfy
either of the prerequisites. Rollins is a member of the
Nation of Islam and claims that he could not have attended
religious programming at his prison in the last six months
because the facility only provides Al-Islam services, which
his religious convictions bar him from attending.
Magistrate Judge explained, “‘[A] prison inmate
retains those First Amendment rights that are not
inconsistent with his status as a prisoner or with the
legitimate penological objectives of the corrections
system.'” Jones v. Williams, 791 F.3d
1023, 1035 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting Pell v.
Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 822 (1974)). And inmates retain
the “‘right to be provided with food sufficient
to sustain them in good health that satisfies the dietary
laws of their religion.'” Id. (quoting
McElyea v. Babbitt, 833 F.2d 196, 198 (9th Cir.
1987)). However, “running a simplified food service,
rather than one that gives rise to many administrative
difficulties, ” and “the reduction of
administrative and budgetary burdens” are legitimate
penological interests. See Ward v. Walsh, 1 F.3d
873, 877 (9th Cir. 1993); Shakur v. Schriro, 514
F.3d 878, 886 (9th Cir. 2008).
Court applies the four-factor test from Turner v.
Safley to determine whether a prison regulation is
reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest: (1)
whether there is a valid, rational connection between the
prison regulation and the legitimate governmental interest;
(2) whether “there are alternative means of exercising
the right that remain open to prison inmates”; (3)
“the impact accommodation of the asserted
constitutional right will have on guards and other inmates,
and on the allocation of prison resources generally”;
and (4) “the existence of obvious, easy alternatives,
” which “may be evidence that the regulation is
not reasonable, but is an ‘exaggerated response' to
prison concerns.” 482 U.S. 78, 89-91 (1987). If the
first factor is not satisfied, a court need not reach the
remaining three factors. Prison Legal News v.
Lehman, 397 F.3d 692, 699 (9th Cir. 2005).
Report and Recommendation concluded that the first
Turner factor favored the DOC for three reasons: (1)
Rollins' evidence that he could not attend Al-Islam
services was insufficient to create a material dispute of
fact, (2) the DOC has an exception that allows inmates to
participate in the Ramadan meal program if they are at a
facility where they cannot partake in religious programming,
and (3) Rollins did not address the fact that he also could
have participated in the Ramadan meal program by receiving
Halal meals. Dkt. #25 at 7. Rollins objects that the
Magistrate Judge “misses the point” of his claim,
which is that he did fall into the exception for
inmates at facilities that lack religious programming. Dkt.
#26 at 1. Rollins' also disputes that his evidence
showing he cannot attend the Al-Islam services is
Court agrees with Rollins that his evidence describing the
differences between the Nation of Islam and Al-Islam, which
consists mainly of his own declaration and the declaration of
his cell mate, is enough to create a material dispute of
fact. The religions seem to have legitimate differences such
that it is unclear whether Rollins could gain access to the
Ramadan meal program via attending religious programming.
That said, Rollins' history of attending religious events
while incarcerated shows that he did, in fact, attend Muslim
Jumah three times in January of 2016. Dkt. #16-1 at 34.
Rollins' declaration also suggests that Al-Islam is more
intolerant of Nation of Islam beliefs than the other way
existence of an exception for inmates at facilities without
sufficient programming also appears irrelevant in this case
because that exception was not applied. See Dkt. #21
at 8. In fact, it is somewhat unclear how this exception
functions. Defendant Belinda Stewart's declaration states
that there is an “exception process for individuals who
. . . were housed at a facility that did not have religious
programming such that an individual could satisfy the
six-month participation prerequisite.” Dkt. #16 at 3.
However, while that statement cites to a 2017 DOC memo
explaining the new Ramadan sign-up process, that memo merely
states that those who do not meet the religious programming
requirement “will be approved or denied at the
discretion of the Facility Chaplain.” Dkt. #16-1 at 23.
regardless of whether there is an exception that Rollins
qualified for, the DOC's violation of their own internal
policy does not equal a constitutional deprivation. And here,
even if the only route available to Rollins to participate in
the Ramadan meal program was receiving Halal meals, his
constitutional claim still fails. As Rollins himself
recognizes, the Ramadan meal program basically is
the Halal meal program delivered on a different timetable.
Although Rollins is correct that he “has the right to
be provided with food sufficient to sustain [him] in good
health that satisfies the dietary laws of [his] religion,
” he does not have the right to demand such food only
at certain times. See McElyea v. Babbitt, 833 F.2d
196, 198 (9th Cir. 1987). If the Halal aspect of the Ramadan
meal program is apparently not too important to Rollins, he
fails to explain how the DOC's actions truly prevented
him from expressing his religion. Beyond arguing that it is
unfair for some Muslim inmates to receive the Ramadan meal
program while he does not, Rollins fails to explain why he
could not have fasted independently. Limiting the Ramadan
program to inmates receiving Halal meals, even if those
inmates may be unable to attend pre-existing religious
programming, is rationally related to a legitimate government
DOC's Ramadan sign-up process also must be read in light
of the policy allowing inmates without established religious
programming to request additional programming. Dkt. #16-1 at
5-6. An inmate such as Rollins feels they are prohibited from
attending existing services may fill out a form aimed at
finding volunteers to represent the religious group and
administer programming. Success is not guaranteed, but the
choice between attending the existing religious programming
and foregoing services altogether is not as stark as Rollins
presents it. Here, there is no evidence that Rollins did
anything to seek out religious programming that would be
acceptable to him. Instead, he chose to attend numerous
Native American ceremonies. This left the chaplains with no
indications at all that Rollins had sincerely-held beliefs.
above reasons, the Court:
ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation;
GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary ...