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Cook v. Federal Bureau of Prisons & Secor, Inc.

United States District Court, Western District of Virginia, Roanoke Division

February 21, 2014

NORWOOD COOK, Petitioner,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS & SECOR, INC., Respondents.

OPINION

James P. Jones United States District Judge

Norwood Cook, Pro Se Petitioner.

The petitioner, Norwood Cook, proceeding pro se, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging prison officials’ denial of his request to receive a diet in keeping with his religious beliefs. Upon review of the petition, I conclude that it must be summarily dismissed without prejudice, because Cook has no right to relief under § 2241.[1]

In his petition, Cook states that he is currently confined at SECOR, a community corrections center (halfway house) located in Lebanon, Virginia, privately owned and operated by SECOR, Inc. Cook states that his Muslim religious beliefs prohibit him from eating certain meats. While Cook was confined at a prison facility operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, officials provided him with a diet designed to accommodate Jewish and Muslim dietary beliefs. At SECOR, officials do not provide him with this diet, although they do provide a vegetarian meal option. When Cook filed a BOP grievance form about his desire to receive his religious diet, a BOP official spoke with him by telephone and informed him that “it is against BOP policy to provide in community release status [inmates] with the religious diet option.” (Pet. 10.)

On these facts, Cook sues BOP and SECOR, Inc. for failing to provide him with the religious diet his beliefs require. Specifically, he asserts that denial of the diet violates his right to free exercise of his religious beliefs, in violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”); deprives him of equal protection, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. As relief, Cook asks the court to order SECOR to provide him with a diet comparable to the religious diet provided to Muslim inmates at BOP prison facilities.

I cannot find that Cook has any ground for the relief he seeks under § 2241. Habeas corpus petitions are generally reserved for attacks on the fact or duration of the petitioner’s confinement. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). Challenges to conditions of confinement (such as the religious dietary accommodations the prison provides) fall well outside this core of habeas corpus subject matter and must be raised, if at all, in a civil action for damages or injunctive relief under federal or state law. See Nelson v. Campbell, 541 U.S. 637, 643 (2004); Robinson v. Young, Civil Action No. 09-0963, 2009 WL 3055316, at *2 (W.D. La. 2009) (unpublished) (summarily dismissing inmate’s § 2241 claim that prison officials refused to provide appropriate religious diet in violation of First Amendment and RFRA as a civil rights claim regarding prison conditions). Because Cook’s petition challenges only a condition of his confinement rather than the fact or duration of his confinement, I will summarily dismiss it without prejudice.[2]

A separate Final Order will be entered herewith.


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