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Walker v. Morse

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

October 23, 2019

Frankie Lee Walker, II, Plaintiff,
v.
Chaplain R. Morse, Mrs. Cummings and Sgt. Erikson, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRISTOW MARCHANT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This action has been filed by the Plaintiff, pro se, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.§ 1983.[1]Plaintiff, who at the time this action was filed was a pre trial detainee at the Aiken County Detention Center (ACDC), [2] alleges violations of his constitutional rights by the named Defendants while he was incarcerated at the Detention Center.

         The Defendant Morse filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, Fed.R.Civ.P., on May 7, 2019. As the Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, a Roseboro order was entered by the Court on May 8, 2019, advising Plaintiff of the importance of a dispositive motion and of the need for him to file an adequate response. Plaintiff was specifically advised that if he failed to respond adequately, the Defendant's motion may be granted. Plaintiff thereafter filed a response in opposition to the Defendant Morse's motion on May 22, 2019.

         The Defendant Cummings filed a motion for summary judgment on July 22, 2019, and a second Roseboro order was entered by the Court on July 23, 2019. Thereafter, the final Defendant Erikson also filed a motion for summary judgment on August 21, 2019, and a third Roseboro order was entered on August 22, 2019. However, notwithstanding the specific notice and warning as set forth in the Court's Roseboro orders, Plaintiff has never filed any responses in opposition to the motions for summary judgment filed by Cummings and Erikson.

         The Defendants' motions are now before the Court for disposition.[3]

         Background and Evidence

         Plaintiff alleges in his verified Amended Complaint[4] that during the relevant time period (beginning in or around August 29, 2018) he was a pretrial detainee at the Aiken County Detention Center. The Defendant Morse is alleged to be a Chaplain, the Defendant Cummings is alleged to be the “kitchen supervisor”, and the Defendant Erikson is alleged to be a “Sergeant”.

         Plaintiff alleges that he is a Muslim, and that “Chaplain R. Morse is not doing his job properly in making sure Muslims are getting [their] rights [.]” Specifically, Plaintiff complains that Morse does not know anything about the Islamic faith, that he will not give Muslims Korans or any other type of study material, and that he does not make sure Muslims have a place to pray or provide prayer rugs. Plaintiff further complains about not getting a proper Muslim diet. Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant Cummings (the kitchen supervisor) told him that the jail does not have a “Halal or Kosher diet” for Muslim prisoners. Plaintiff also complains that he was placed on a no processed meat diet, but that he had not been receiving that diet but was instead given vegetarian trays. Plaintiff also complains that Cummings was not providing him with milk that he needed as a nutritional supplement, and generally complains about the quality of food he received while at the jail. Finally, Plaintiff complains that every time he asks Erikson for help on an issue, he always responds by telling him either it is not an issue or that what Plaintiff is doing is going to get him written up “or something of that nature”. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief against the Defendants (i.e., for them to be required “to fix how they treat Muslims here”), as well as monetary damages. See generally, Amended Complaint.

         In support of summary judgment in the case, the Defendant Chaplain Ronald Morse has submitted an affidavit wherein he attests that he is employed by the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry, an independent contractor, to provide chaplain services to inmates at the ACDC. Morse attests that at no time was he ever employed by the State of South Carolina or the Detention Center, nor has he ever been compensated by the Detention Center or the State of South Carolina for any chaplain services he provides. Morse further attests that, in his role as a Chaplain, he from time to time receives requests from inmates related to their spiritual needs, which he forwards along to the shift command or to Captain Nick Gallam, the Detention Center Administrator. However, Morse attests that he has no authority or ability to approve any of these requests, to include dietary requests, requests for private praying areas, or requests for religious items such as Korans, prayer rugs, or rosary beads. Nor, as a Chaplain, did Morse have any authority over, or ability to influence, ACDC policy or protocol.

         Morse attests that during Plaintiff's period of incarceration he requested a restrictive all vegetarian and no chemical diet based on his religious beliefs. Morse attests that he forwarded Plaintiff's request on to the jail administration, but that his request was ultimately denied for lacking a legitimate religious reason after records revealed that Plaintiff had been purchasing junk food from the commissary. Morse further attests that Plaintiff requested a private area where he and six other Muslin inmates could pray without anyone walking in front of them, and that he [Morse] also forwarded this request on to Captain Gallam. However, Morse attests that this request was also ultimately denied, both for safety reasons and because the Detention Center could not allow one particular religious group a private prayer area when other groups were not allowed the same. With respect to Plaintiff's request for a Koran, Morse attests that he forwarded Plaintiff's request on to jail administration. Morse also attests that Korans were, at all time relevant to Plaintiff's claims, available for purchase from the jail commissary. Even so, Morse attests that he contacted the Islamic Society of Augusta to request that they provide any donated Korans for inmates at the Detention Center, and that after the Islamic Society of Augusta sent some donated Korans, Plaintiff was eventually provided with one. Finally, Morse attests that although he does not recall Plaintiff ever making a request for a prayer rug, that he is generally familiar with the policies and procedures of the Detention Center, and that assuming any such request was ever made, it would have been denied because prayer rugs, like rosary beads, are considered contraband. See generally, Morse Affidavit.

         The Defendant Irma Cummings has also provided an affidavit wherein she attests that she is employed by Trinity Services Group, Inc., a private corporation contracted to provide food services to the Aiken County Detention Center. Cummings attests that she serves as Trinity Food Service Director at the Detention Center, where her job duties include the planning, directing, and coordinating general activities and duties related to running the Detention Center's kitchen and all functions related thereto. However, Cummings attests that, as Food Service Director, she has no involvement in the creation of the menus and diets served to inmates at the Detention Center. Rather, Trinity employs a regional dietician who is responsible for, among other tasks, designing and reviewing menus pursuant to the specifications, directives and guidelines of the Detention Center. Cummings attests that the inmate menu for the Detention Center (both the regular menu and the alternative/vegan menu) provides a nutritionally adequate diet for sedentary and/or incarcerated adults, and satisfies the Dietary Reference Intakes/EARs recommendations published by the National Academy of Sciences - National Research Council, and also follows the Minimum Standards for Local Detention Facilities in South Carolina as well as the guidelines from the American Correctional Association (ACA).

         Cummings has attached a copy of the menu for the Detention Center to her affidavit as Exhibit 1. Cummings attests that the regular menu provided to the inmates provides an average daily calorie count of 2, 800 calories, while the alternative/vegan menu also provides an average daily calorie count of 2, 800 calories. Cummings attests that, if consumed as prepared, the meals provided to the Plaintiff while he was housed at the Detention Center followed the Minimum Standards for Local Detention Facilities in South Carolina as well as the guidelines from the ACA. See Cummings Exhibit, at 00067-68. Cummings has attached to her affidavit a copy of the Detention Center's regular menu in effect from on or about July 6, 2018 through on or about June 3, 2019, a copy of the regular menu in effect from on or about June 3, 2019 through the present, and a copy of the Detention Center diet spread sheet for alternate diets, including medical diets and the vegan diet, that were in effect at the Detention Center from on or about June 3, 2019. See Cummings Exhibit, at 00006-66.

         Cummings further attests that a religious diet is available for Detention Center inmates who request and are approved for the religious diet menu. The Detention Center specifies the type of religious accommodations that inmates may receive, as well as the manner in which the diets are served. However, Cummings attests that, as a Trinity employee, she does not approve (or disapprove) inmate requests for a religious diet, nor does she have any involvement in the decision or control over what alternative/religious diets are available to Detention Center inmates. Cummings further attests that a diet containing Halal certified meats is not available to inmates, but that the Detention Center offers a vegan diet, at least in part, to provide food that may be consumed by individuals who eat no meat due to religious beliefs and/or customs, and that this diet may be applicable to Halal, Kosher, and other religious diets as determined by the Detention Center.

         Cummings attests that restricted/medical diets are also available for inmates whose medical conditions require specific dietary restrictions to preserve their health and well being. However, these restricted medical diets are based on medical necessity, not inmate food preferences, and the Detention Center Medical Department personnel must prescribe a specific restricted medical diet prior to the diet being served to an inmate. Cummings attests that once an inmate demonstrates to the medical provider that they are in need of a particular medical diet, the medical department sends a Restricted Diet Order Form to the Detention Center kitchen. However, Cummings attests that as an employee of Trinity, and not the Detention Center Medical Department, she cannot and does not prescribe medical diets, nor did she have any involvement with the Plaintiff's medical complaints, evaluations or treatments.

         Finally, Cummings attests that one of her job duties is to supervise the food service supervisors who, in turn, supervise the creation and service of all meals, including medical diets. Cummings attests that Trinity employees, including herself, ensure that the proper diets are being prepared and served in accordance with an individual inmate's medical and/or religious orders. Cummings attests that she has searched the records she maintains at the Detention Center's kitchen, which show that on September 12, 2018 RN (Registered Nurse) Gallaway issued a Restricted Diet Order Form for the Plaintiff which provided that Plaintiff be given a nutritional support diet with an evening snack (noted as H.S. Snack on the order form) but which could not contain “any processed meats due to religious practices”. See also, Exhibit (Cummings 00001). On October 8, 2018, LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) Wright issued a Restricted Diet Order Form for the Plaintiff providing that Plaintiff was to be given a Kosher/Halal Diet, which is the vegan diet. Id., at Cummings 00002. On October 15, 2018, LPN Wright issued a modification to Plaintiff's October 8, 2018 Restricted Diet Order Form providing that Plaintiff be given a Kosher/Halal Diet along with a milk at every meal. Id., at Cummings 00003. On December 11, 2018, RN Galloway issued a Restricted Diet Order Form for the Plaintiff which provided that Plaintiff continue to be given nutritional support with an evening snack, but that he was no longer to be given the alternative vegan diet and was to be “put back on regular tray”. Id., at Cummings 00004. Finally, on ...


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