United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Jackson L. Kiser Senior United States District Judge
Burke, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and as a pauper
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, filed a verified complaint
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§1983 and 2000cc~l.
Plaintiff names numerous staff of the Virginia Department of
Corrections ("VDOC") and Wallens Ridge State Prison
("WRSP") as defendants. Plaintiff argues that
Defendants violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments of
the United States Constitution, the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), and
Virginia law by not providing Rastafarian group religious
services; Rastafarian religious items and holiday meals;
legal resources; and educational and vocational programming.
Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing,
inter alia, the defense of qualified
immunity. Plaintiff responded, making this matter
ripe for disposition. After reviewing the record, I grant in
part and deny in part Defendants' motion for summary
judgment and direct Defendants to file another motion for
presents five broad claims about the conditions of
confinement he experienced at Red Onion State Prison
("ROSP") and WRSP. First, various defendants
violated religious rights protected by the First Amendment
and RLUIPA because he was denied access to Rastafarian
religious group services, service items, and holiday meals.
Second, various defendants violated the Equal Protection
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by treating Plaintiff
differently than other inmates. Plaintiff describes the
disparate treatment as access to vocational and educational
programs and the religious practices described in the first
claim. Third, various defendants violated the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by not giving Plaintiff
access to vocational and educational programs. Fourth,
various defendants violated a First Amendment right to access
courts by not supplying legal resources for the United States
Virgin Islands ("US VI") laws. Lastly, various
supervisory defendants witnessed or learned of these
violations but did not intervene. Plaintiff seeks declaratory
relief, a transfer to the custody of the U.S. VI, and
nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages.
is from the U.S. VI and is an observant Rastafarian who
believes he must grow his hair uncut and styled in
dreadlocks. Plaintiff was transferred from the USVI and into
the custody of the VDOC at ROSP on April 14, 2013, pursuant
to the Correctional Services Contract ("Contract")
between the VDOC and the USVI Bureau of Corrections
7, 2013, Plaintiff received an institutional conviction and
was confined in segregation for refusing to obey the order to
cut his dreadlocks. VDOC Operating Procedure ("OP")
864.1, titled, "Offender Grooming and Hygiene, "
and effective on April 1, 2013, establishes uniform personal
grooming standards for inmates in VDOC facilities. Prison
officials explain that these standards facilitate the
identification of inmates and promote safety, security, and
sanitation. Dreadlocks and other hair styles are prohibited
for general population inmates because those styles could
conceal contraband, promote identification with gangs, create
a health, hygiene, or sanitation hazard, or could
significantly compromise the ability to identify an inmate.
was at ROSP while he was still challenging his criminal
judgment entered by a court of the U.S. VI. On December 6,
2013, the U.S. VI Supreme Court denied Plaintiffs appeal.
Plaintiff alleges that he lost the appeal because he had been
unable to obtain USVI legal materials since arriving at ROSP.
was transferred to WRSP on May 30, 2014, and placed in
segregation for nearly four weeks. Upon arrival, he tried to
obtain USVI legal resources to develop a habeas petition, but
none were available.
was released from segregation and assigned to WRSP's
Grooming Standards Violators Housing Unit ("VHU")
on June 26, 2014. The VDOC established the VHU for inmates
who have a religious objection to cutting their dreadlocks.
The objective of the VHU pod is to manage male inmates who
are in violation of the grooming standards under OP 864.1. To
be eligible for assignment to VHU at WRSP, an inmate must
have been convicted of offense code 133, "Refusing to
Comply with the Department's Grooming Standards."
being housed in the VHU, an Institutional Classification
Authority hearing was held on an unspecified date to inform
Plaintiff of the rules, rights, and privileges afforded
inside the VHU. Plaintiff was told that he could practice his
religious faith inside of his cell because, at that time,
group religious services were not available to Rastafarians
in the VHU. Plaintiff was also told of the educational and
vocational programs offered in the VHU. Plaintiff was further
told that he could not be housed with or be near inmates in
the general population except for the school tutor.
Nonetheless, all inmates in the VHU may enroll in the
distance learning programs, which include viewing
instructional video lessons via closed-circuit TV and sending
and receiving assignments to teachers via institutional mail.
January 2015, the VDOC allowed group Rastafarian religious
services for the VHU inmates who signed up. Plaintiff
attended the service on January 15, 2015, but the prison had
not provided a "Levi and high priest" or
Rastafarian service items like a red, yellow, and green
prayer rug; a red, yellow, and green knit hat; drums; a
"Holy Piby Bible"; incense; a red, yellow, and
green Lion of Judah flag; or pictures, portraits, or
documents of King Haile Selassie I.
February 18, 2016, Plaintiff was moved into Phase I of the
VHU, which purportedly had been created two days earlier.
Plaintiff requested educational or vocational programming for
job training but was denied a job outside the VHU because his
hair was deemed a security threat.
April 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed an informal complaint about
not receiving from the prison law library legal materials
about USVI laWs. Defendant Jones, who was the WRSP Law
Library Supervisor, replied approximately two weeks after the
informal complaint that the USVI had not yet transmitted an
updated, working electronic collection of USVI laws.
to the Contract, the USVI BOC is responsible for establishing
procedures to make all necessary legal research materials
about USVI laws available to the USVI inmates in the
VDOC's custody. The USVI BOC typically sends a compact
disc ("CD") of USVI laws to WRSP. The CD arrived at
WRSP on February 2, 2015, and stopped working in March 2016,
ostensibly because the software license expired. WRSP staff
requested an updated CD in March 2016, but WRSP staff did not
receive the updated CD until June 22, 2016.
response to another informal complaint sent on April 28,
2016, defendant Collins, who was the Unit Manager, explained
on May 6, 2016, that Plaintiff could participate in
Rastafarian services by writing the Chaplain during open
enrollment and could enroll in longdistance education
programs. In the subsequent regular grievance, Plaintiff
alleged that he had already been on the participation list
from the prior year- but still had not been
allowed to participate.
explain that a one-hour Rastafarian service occurs in the VHU
each Friday morning. They further assert that Plaintiff does
not attend because he has not submitted a request to
participate despite being told to do so, not because he is
personally prohibited from attending.
5, 2016, Plaintiff filed an informal complaint to the
Chaplain, wanting Rastafarian service items and Rastafarian
holiday meals on July 23 and November 2. The Chaplain replied
on May 12, 2016, noting that he does not have any of the
requested items and that all religious items must be donated.
Plaintiff later learned that prison officials do not serve
holiday meals to ...