United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Harris, No. 283029 South Woods State Prison 215 Burlington
Road South Bridgeton, N.J. 08302 Plaintiff pro se
Gregory R. Bueno, Esq. Suzanne Marie Davies, Esq. Office of
the Attorney General 25 Market Street Trenton, N.J. 08625
Counsel for Moving Defendants
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
Gary Harris, appearing pro se,  is in the custody of the New
Jersey Department of Corrections (“NJDOC”) and
currently incarcerated at South Woods State Prison
(“SWSP”) in Bridgeton, New Jersey. Plaintiff
claims that Defendants have violated his rights under the
First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution by
not providing him with hot meals and adequate food during
Ramadan, failing to accommodate sufficient prayer time and
provide prayer oil, preventing him from wearing religious
attire, and harassing him during 2012 and 2013.
before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment of
Defendants Marcus Hicks, Christopher Holmes, Gary Lanigan,
Bettie Norris and Maggie Silva (the “Moving
Defendants”),  which is ripe for
adjudication. ECF No. 91. For the reasons that follow,
the Court will grant the Motion.
Gary Harris commenced this action by submitting a Complaint
to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
ECF No. 1. Plaintiff asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for (1) violation of the First Amendment's
Free Exercise Clause; and (2) denial of Equal Protection in
violation of the Fourteenth Amendment against Hicks, Holmes,
Lanigan, Norris and Silva as well as defendants Mark Farsi,
Greg Lanoza, Mack Selby, Mark Ramano, John Marcucci, Dr.
Yusef, Reverend Moyer, Kevin Bolden, Easely, and John Does
1-10. Id., ¶¶ 3-17, 33-36.
According to the Complaint, Plaintiff sues the defendants in
both their official and individual capacities. Id. at
1. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief,
compensatory damages, punitive damages, and reasonable
costs.Id., ¶ 40.
alleges that the Defendants violated his Constitutional
rights with respect to his adherence to the Islamic faith.
Plaintiff categorizes the Defendants' alleged wrongdoing
pursuant to his religious beliefs as the (1) failure to
provide hot meals and adequate food; (2) failure to
accommodate sufficient prayer time and prayer oil; and (3)
failure to permit donning of kufi caps during prison
recreation. Id., ¶¶ 18-31. Plaintiff
alleges that these violations occurred in 2012 and 2013.
times relevant to this action, Plaintiff has been
incarcerated at SWSP in Bridgeton, New Jersey, a correctional
facility owned and operated by NJDOC. ECF No. 91-2, ¶
13. Plaintiff is an adherent of the Islamic faith and has
considered himself Muslim throughout his incarceration.
Id., ¶ 14. Plaintiff identifies as a follower
of Sunni Islam. Id., ¶ 15.
Religious Dietary Restrictions
asserts his belief that according to the Islamic faith, he
must follow certain dietary restrictions year round.
Id., ¶ 16. These include complete restrictions
on eating pork, drinking alcohol, and use of drugs.
Id., ¶ 16. In addition to general dietary
restrictions described above, Plaintiff also stated there are
specific dietary restrictions associated with the holy month
of Ramadan. Id., ¶ 17. Specifically, Plaintiff
testified that he is required to fast during Ramadan.
Id. Plaintiff describes the fasting practices during
Ramadan as follows: Once the “Fajr prayer” (dawn)
prayer “comes in, ” Plaintiff is not to consume
any foods or liquids until night time. In essence, Plaintiff
must fast completely from one hour before sunrise until
sunset. Id., ¶¶ 18-19.
explains that some Muslims are excused from the Ramadan fast,
like those who are on medications, are too old, have a
disability, or otherwise would endure a hardship if they had
to fast. ECF No. 91-4, Dep. at 33. Plaintiff identifies no
other dietary requirements as part of his religion or for the
practice of Ramadan. Plaintiff does not claim that having the
same caloric intake during fasting days as during non-fasting
days is required or suggested by, or indeed in any way
related to, the Islamic faith. ECF No. 91-2, ¶ 57.
Ramadan in 2012, Defendant Hicks, who at the time served as
the Director of the NJDOC's Office of Community Programs
and Outreach Services, issued a memorandum to all the
prisons' administrators regarding preparation for
Ramadan. In this memo, he instructed the facilities that:
a. Inmates participating in Ramadan should be provided the
standard meal package for breakfast and dinner as provided to
the general inmate population and should be diversified as
much as possible.
b. Ritualistic elements should be provided equally for all
approved religious services throughout the NJDOC. Defendant
Hicks also instructed the facilities that the purchasing of
dates “is the appropriate and required food provision
for those observing Ramadan.”
c. Movement schedules and meal schedules are to be made
available and distributed to “all appropriate custody
and civilian staff that are involved in the preparation and
oversight of Ramadan observance in order to avoid any
possible delays or discrepancies in services.”
Id., ¶ 22. On July 11, 2012, non-moving
Defendant SWSP Food Service Supervisor Mark Ramano issued an
inter-office memorandum to all food service staff regarding
food preparation during Ramadan. Id., ¶ 24.
This memo directed food service staff to deliver breakfast 20
to 30 minutes before meal time. Id. It also directed
staff to deliver the dinner meals at approximately No. 6:00
to 6:30 p.m. Id., ¶¶ 23-24. Ramano ordered
that at service time, the hot portions of meals will be
placed in aluminum trays, while the cold portions will be
placed in a hinged tray. Id., ¶ 25. The memo
also addressed food temperature control. Specifically, Ramano
ordered that the aluminum trays be placed on steam tables
with approximately a half inch of water and the control dial
to be set no higher than “3”. Id.,
¶ 26. The cold portions of the meal (hinged trays) were
ordered to be placed in the milk dispensers until
distribution time. Id., ¶ 27.
memo also confirmed that during preparation for Ramadan, a
meeting was held between Dr. Yusef (chaplain), Food Services
and the SWSP Administration. Id. At that meeting, it
was decided that even though it was not required, Food
Services would provide the additional foods for the express
purpose of making up the calories lost without being served
lunch (which cannot be served to Muslim inmates due to their
fasting). Id., ¶ 29.
testified that from approximately July 20 to August 19, 2012,
and July 11 to August 9, 2013 (Ramadan in 2012 and 2013,
respectively), Food Services gave him as part of his dinner
“two slices of bread” and did not give him enough
food to make up for the calories lost from not being able to
eat lunch (a loss he attributes to the Ramadan fast) as part
of his dinner. Id., ¶ 20. During Ramadan in
2012 and 2013, however, Plaintiff and the Muslim population
received the standard breakfast and dinner packages, which
included a rotating menu for both breakfast and dinner.
Id., ¶ 30.
addition to being afforded the standard breakfast and dinner
menus, the Muslim population at SWSP, including Plaintiff,
was given two slices of bread, two servings of peanut butter,
two servings of jelly, and was served cold cereal in place of
hot cereal. Id., ¶ 31. Plaintiff expressed his
personal distaste for the aforesaid combination of food
provided. Id., ¶ 21. Plaintiff states that he
would have liked a “double tray” at dinner. ECF
No. 91-4, Dep. at 38. None of the named Defendants played any
role in preparing Plaintiff's food at any time period
relevant to the litigation. ECF No. 91-2, ¶ 40.
Ramadan in 2012 and 2013, Plaintiff received his breakfast
meals at about 3:00 a.m., whereas the general population
inmates would receive their breakfast meals around 5:00 a.m.
Id., ¶ 35. Plaintiff would receive hot water in
the morning during Ramadan. Id., ¶ 36. During
Ramadan, as during the rest of the year, however, Plaintiff
would buy additional food from the commissary. ECF No. 91-4,
Dep. at 41. Plaintiff encountered difficulty preparing the
food he purchased at the commissary, which sometimes requires
hot water, because hot water was not provided during Ramadan
in 2012 and 2013 in the evening. Id. at 42-43.
Plaintiff states that since then, hot water has been
provided. Id. at 44.
testified that his body went through changes during the month
of Ramadan due to dietary restrictions. ECF No. 91-2, ¶
38. Plaintiff did not seek any medical assistance for these
symptoms. Id., ¶ 39.
response to questioning about how, in his view, his exercise
of his Islamic beliefs was frustrated by the kinds of meals
provided or in what instances hot water was provided,
Plaintiff testified that he felt disrespected that he was not
being given access to hot water. Id., ¶ 41.
Access to Prayer Time, Prayer Oil, and Kufis
testified that both during Ramadan and non-Ramadan days,
there have been instances where non-defendant corrections
officers in “Facility 3” have told him that he is
not allowed to pray in the recreation yard. Id.,
¶ 43. Plaintiff states that since October 2015, he has
been housed in “Facility 1, ” where he has not
had any issue with getting sufficient prayer time.
Id., ¶ 42.
admits that Defendants Silva and Norris are completely
uninvolved in Plaintiff's claims regarding the ability to
pray, id., ¶ 44, and that none of the
Defendants directed corrections officers to interfere with
Plaintiff's prayers. Id., ¶ 46.
testified that he wrote to Defendants Holmes and Lanigan
about “the conditions . . . that were happening at the
Jumuah [prayer] services and about praying in the
yard.” Id., ¶ 45. Plaintiff states that
he directed correspondence to Defendants Holmes and Lanigan
about “Muslims congregating . . . Muslims being able to
pray in the yard . . . Muslims not being able to wear kufis
[religious headwear] . . . .” He states that after
submitting this correspondence, he is now allowed to wear
kufis. Id., ¶ 47. According to Plaintiff,