support their allegations that the County defendants substantially burdened their free exercise. Plaintiffs claim that the County defendants limited the number of inmates allowed to go religious services at one time. Thus, each inmate did not get to attend services as often as he would have liked. See, e.g., Custis and Stefano Religious Access Interrogs. P 1; Frazier General Interrogs. P 5(a). Plaintiffs do not, however, indicate what sincerely held religious beliefs were substantially burdened by this apportionment of available services to assure at least some access for all inmates. See Muslim, 897 F. Supp. at 217-18 (requiring that a prisoner claiming a violation of his free-exercise rights under RFRA demonstrate that a sincerely held religious belief has been substantially burdened). For example, plaintiffs do not assert that their beliefs entail attendance at any particular type of service with any particular frequency. Moreover, even if any plaintiffs had alleged such particulars, the fair apportionment of access to prison resources for the benefit of inmates of all faiths constitutes a compelling governmental interest, accomplished in the least restrictive manner, to defeat plaintiffs' RFRA claims. See Rust v. Clarke, 883 F. Supp. 1293 (D. Neb. 1995) (permitting prison officials to limit worship time, privileges, and religious items as least restrictive means of furthering compelling interest in fairly apportioning prison religious resources).
Two plaintiffs allege RFRA claims based on somewhat different facts. However, these two plaintiffs also fail to present valid claims. Plaintiff Long asserts that he was "refused 'Ramadan' where Muslims fast during daylight hours" and that there were "no Muslim services at CCCF." Long Religious Access Interrogs. P 1. Plaintiff Hines states that he was deprived of Jumah, the Muslim Friday prayer service because he "was unable to congregate with all the other incarcerated members of his faith." Hines General Interrogs. P 5(a). CCCF officials permitted Muslim inmates to gather on their own tiers for services rather than permitting all Muslims throughout the jail to assemble. Id.; see also Barden and St. John Religious Access Interrogs. P 1.
As to Long's allegations, his assertion that CCCF held "no Muslim services" is flatly contradicted by the statements of Hines, Barden, and St. John. His claim that he was "refused 'Ramadan'" is far too vague to survive a summary judgment motion. A plaintiff must make a threshold showing under RFRA that defendants have placed a substantial burden on his right to exercise his religion. See Boomer v. Irvin, 919 F. Supp. 122 (W.D.N.Y. 1995). Long, by contrast, fails to provide, either initially in his answers to interrogatories or subsequently in his response to the County defendants' motion, any explanation of how he was prevented from abstaining from food during the daylight hours of Ramadan. The Court must thus grant the County defendants summary judgment on this claim. See Crosley-El v. Berge, 896 F. Supp. 885 (E.D. Wisc. 1995) (granting summary judgment for defendant where plaintiff presented no evidence to support bare conclusory statement that his Moorish religion prohibited attendance at general Muslim services).
In contrast to Long, Hines is somewhat more specific in contending that Jumah services should have included all CCCF inmates rather than being limited to inmates from individual tiers. See Hines General Interrogs. P 5(a). Nonetheless, while Jumah may be "the central congregate service of the Muslim faith," Boomer, 919 F. Supp. at 124, Hines has not supported his contention that Muslims from a single tier would not be a sufficient group for worship. Moreover, even assuming that a prohibition against mass gatherings constituted a substantial burden, defendants have demonstrated a compelling governmental interest--the preservation of safety and security--in limiting the number of inmates who could gather at one time. Cf. Shaheed v. Winston, 885 F. Supp. 861 (E.D. Va. 1995) (citing the need to maintain order in a crowded jail as justification for limitations on services). Defendants have also demonstrated that they employed the least restrictive means to preserve prison safety and security.
Thus, the Court will grant the County defendants summary judgment on all plaintiffs' free-exercise claims. In most instances, plaintiffs have failed to indicate that any specific actions of the County defendants created a substantial burden on their free-exercise rights. Even where a substantial burden may have existed, defendants' actions were the least restrictive means of assuring a compelling interest in safety and security at CCCF.
Because plaintiffs fail to demonstrate substantial burdens on their religious practices, or, in some instances, because the County defendants had a compelling interest in maintaining security, and fulfilled this interest in a manner least restrictive of plaintiffs' religious rights, the Court will grant the County defendants' motion for summary judgment as to plaintiffs' free-exercise claims. Because plaintiffs fail to demonstrate actual injury arising from lack of access to a law library or legal materials, the Court will grant the County defendants' motion for summary judgment as to plaintiffs' access-to-courts claims as well. Because plaintiff Torres's complaint is barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the Court will also grant the County defendants' motion to dismiss his complaint in its entirety.
However, because the County defendants either had direct knowledge of the alleged constitutional violations or were responsible for policies that resulted in the alleged violations, and because there remain genuine issues of material fact as to the plaintiffs' conditions of confinement and medical care claims of general conditions of confinement and claims of failure to provide medical care, the Court will deny the County defendants' motion to dismiss these remaining claims. An appropriate order will issue on even date herewith.
Date: June 13, 1997
JOSEPH E. IRENAS, U.S.D.J.