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Carawan v. Mitchell

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

March 6, 2018

FNU MITCHELL, et al., Defendants.


          Frank D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant Stephen Bird's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 26).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Pro se Plaintiff William Carawan, a North Carolina state inmate currently incarcerated at Tabor Correctional Institution, filed this action on July 26, 2016, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his rights under the First Amendment and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), codified as 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et. seq. Plaintiff alleges that, while he was housed at Lanesboro Correctional Institution, the prison did not have a Zakat fund. Plaintiff alleges that, as a result, he was not permitted to practice Zakat (charity) in accordance with Islam, even though it is an Islamic pillar and other prison camps use a Zakat fund through the prison canteen. (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff named as Defendants former Lanesboro Superintendent David Mitchell and Stephen Bird, a Correctional Chaplain at Lanesboro at all relevant times. Plaintiff requested declaratory and injunctive relief and nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages. (Id.).

         On March 1, 2017, this Court conducted its frivolity review, dismissing Plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief as moot because he had been transferred away from Lanesboro, and allowing Plaintiff to proceed as to his First Amendment and RLUIPA claims. (Doc. No. 10). A summons was returned as unexecuted as to Defendant Mitchell on March 30, 2017, because Mitchell is no longer employed as Superintendent at Lanesboro. (Doc. No. 12).

         Defendant Bird filed the pending summary judgment motion on January 2, 2018. (Doc. No. 26). On January 2, 2018, this Court entered an order in accordance with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising Plaintiff of the requirements for filing a response to the summary judgment motion and of the manner in which evidence could be submitted to the Court. (Doc. No. 29). On January 23, 2018, Plaintiff filed his response to the summary judgment motion. (Doc. No. 30).

         B. Factual Background

         1. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff contends in this action that his rights under RLUIPA and the First Amendment were violated while he was incarcerated at Lanesboro Correctional Institution as a result of the prison's discontinuation of the Zakat fund-a fund through which prisoners could give charity in accordance with one of the five pillars of Islam, Plaintiff's religion. Plaintiff alleged as follows in the Complaint: “I am prevented from practicing Islam's third pillar of practice because N.C. D.P.S. policy says we can't give things to one another but if the zakat fund was initiated we would be able to offer that charity by going to canteen to purchase zakat tickets. I'm not allowed due process in the deprivation of the zakat fund . . . .” (Doc. No. 1 at p. 4).

         2. Defendant's Summary Judgment Materials

         In support of the summary judgment motion, Defendant has submitted Defendant's own affidavit; the affidavit of non-party John Herring, the current Correctional Facility Administrator at Lanesboro; and Exhibits A through H, which include the NCDPS Religious Practices Resource Guide and Reference Manual, various correspondence between Plaintiff and prison administrators, and Plaintiff's grievances. See (Doc. Nos. 27-1, 27-2). Defendant's summary judgment materials show that Plaintiff was incarcerated at Lanesboro from October 29, 2014, to August 18, 2016, when he was transferred from Lanesboro to Tabor Correctional Center. (Doc. No. 27-1 at ¶ 4: Bird Aff. & Ex. A).

         NCDPS provides written guidance to NCDPS administrators, chaplains, and other appropriate staff concerning religious practices and religious paraphernalia. NCDPS's Religious Practices Resource Guide and Reference Manual (“Manual”), written and published by the Division of Prisons Religious Practices Committee, includes a list of faith practices that are officially recognized by NCDPS. This manual also includes a brief description of the basic beliefs, authorized practices, worship procedures, and authorized religious items associated with each faith group.

         NCDPS recognizes Islam as an approved religion. The part of the Manual under Faith Groups includes a section for the Muslim faith that provides guidance on the Five Pillars of Islam, including Charity (Zakat). The Manual provides that Charity (Zakat) is “[m]oney collected for charity and propagation of the faith. Each facility may permit a ...

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