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Dove v. Patuxent Facility

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 5, 2019

COREY LEE DOVE, Plaintiff
v.
PATUXENT FACILITY, WARDEN LAURA ARMSTEAD, ASSISTANT WARDEN ALLEN GANG, PROPERTY OIC, SGT. ANDERSON, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendants Patuxent Institution, Warden Laura Armstead, Assistant Warden Allen Gang, and former Correctional Officer Jason Anderson, filed a motion to dismiss the complaint or for summary judgment in response to Plaintiff's unverified civil rights complaint. ECF No. 10. The motion is supported by materials outside of the original pleadings, which have been considered by the court. The motion will therefore be construed as one for summary judgment. See Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, 510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007). Plaintiff Corey Lee Dove was advised of his right to file an opposition response to Defendants' motion and of the consequences of failing to do so. ECF No. 12. The motion remains unopposed. A hearing is deemed unnecessary for determination of the pending matters. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion will be granted as to the claim addressed.

         Background

         Plaintiff Corey Lee Dove, a prisoner committed to the custody of the Maryland Division of Correction and, at all times relevant to the complaint, confined at Patuxent Institution, raises a First Amendment free exercise of religion claim. Mr. Dove observes Native American Religious practices and states that when he arrived at Patuxent he discovered there was no group service in place for his chosen faith. ECF No. 1 at p. 2. Mr. Dove states that, after speaking with the chaplain, Kenneth Ingram, about starting such a service, it took over a month for Ingram to get worship services in place for Mr. Dove and other Native Americans to attend. Id. at p. 3.

         Mr. Dove claims that during the wait for services to be instituted, he and other Native Americans attempted to observe their faith without the benefit of formal services. However, Mr. Dove and his fellow observers were subject to verbal harassment and disrespect from correctional officers at Patuxent. Id. Examples of the objectional behavior Mr. Dove claims he experienced included derisive comments regarding their attire, “disrespectful noises, ” and generally being singled out by officers when they became aware one of the inmates was Native American. Id. Additionally, Mr. Dove describes as disheartening the commentary made by officers who predicted there would never be Native American services instituted at Patuxent. Id.

         In response to the derogatory comments directed at them, Mr. Dove and another Native American inmate, Jeremy Sykes, began filing administrative remedy procedure complaints, known as “ARPs, ” the month after they requested services to be provided for their worship. Shortly thereafter, a place was provided for services to be held, but Mr. Dove states that the “facility found every way it could to hinder our service.” Id. Officers not named in the complaint would refuse to allow the attendees to go outside in a timely manner, leaving no time for “sending prayers out.” Id. Although Mr. Dove also filed ARPs regarding these efforts, he claims nothing changed. Id.

         Mr. Dove's housing tier was locked-down from February 11 to March 4, 2018, and he was not permitted to attend services during this time despite the fact that the reason for the lock-down “had nothing to do with [him].” Id. During this period Mr. Dove's mother passed away. Id. at p. 4. Mr. Dove explains that it is very important to his faith to have a sacred ceremony “for spirits passing over.” Id. Mr. Dove was denied the opportunity to have such a ceremony after his mother and one of his sisters passed away. Id.

         Although donations to purchase supplies[1] for religious services were sent to Mr. Dove and the other participants in Native American worship, officials at Patuxent did not allow them to receive the donations. Id. Mr. Dove states that, when he and the other congregants filed ARPs regarding the donations, their complaints were denied on the basis that the donations were not sent in correctly. Id. According to Mr. Dove, however, all of the donations had been sent in the same way since the start of the program - donations and orders of supplies purchased by participants were sent to Chaplain Ingram. Id. Mr. Dove states that as long as Ingram knew about the incoming donations and supplies, the materials were allowed, but the policy suddenly changed without a change in the manner in which things were brought into the prison. Id.

         In summary, Mr. Dove claims that obstacles were placed in the way of the free practice of his religion and that he and his fellow participants were treated unfairly. Id. at p. 5. He acknowledges that Native American religious services are disfavored due to the things needed for its practice but asserts that it is not a valid basis for the treatment they received. Id. He adds that he and Mr. Sykes were transferred out of Patuxent on the same day in a thinly-veiled attempt to end the Native American worship services. Id. As relief, Mr. Dove seeks monetary damages for the pain of losing the opportunity to participate in appropriate worship services following the passing of his mother and sister and an injunction requiring officials at Patuxent to provide appropriate services for Native Americans. Id. at p. 6.

         In a court-ordered supplement to the complaint, Mr. Dove explains that the individuals who were responsible for burdening his free practice of religion were Warden Laura Armstead, Assistant Warden Allen Gang, “Property OIC, ” and Sgt. Anderson. ECF No. 4 at p. 2. He adds a claim that his transfer to Jessup Correctional Institution (JCI) from Patuxent was done in retaliation for filing complaints concerning the conduct that interfered with Native American religious services. Id. Mr. Dove specifically alleges that Warden Armstead had a meeting regarding Native American services and “told everyone to stop everything about [the] service.” Id. at p. 4. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Sykes and he were transferred to JCI. Id.

         Mr. Dove also states that his sister passed away on March 30, 2018, and his mother passed away on February 4, 2018. ECF No. 4 at p. 3. He explains that the religious service following the death of a family member is to send prayers for the family members to “enter the spirit world in the correct gate.” Id. Because he was not allowed properly to pray for his deceased family members, he states that he will now live with guilt that his mother and sister may “be stuck in a cold and lon[e]ly place.” Id.

         Defendants provide the following additional facts. On October 5, 2017, Mr. Dove was transferred to Patuxent. On an unspecified date, Mr. Dove's request for Native American Services was approved by the chaplain. ECF No. 10-2 at p. 2. With regard to the allegations raised in the complaint, Defendants rely on their responses to Mr. Dove's ARP complaints.[2] ECF No. 10-2 at pp. 16-68. Each ARP complaint and response is summarized below.

         In ARP PATX0064-18, dated January 17, 2018, Mr. Dove complained that Native American services had not started on time once during the four months it had been held and that none of the services were “proper.” ECF No. 10-2 at p. 17. He explained that the delay in starting the service was a problem because there is a lot of preparation required for each service and if they are rushed it made it difficult for them to stay grounded and focused during their prayers. Id. at p. 18. The investigation into the complaint consisted of the assigned officer, Cornae Shields, sending an email to Chaplain Ingram asking for the time slots for Native American services. Id. at pp. 19 and 21. Mr. Ingram confirmed that services were scheduled for Wednesdays at 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Id. at p. 21. From this information Officer Shields concluded that: “[a]ccording to the time frames of the inmate service, any off tier movement is contingent on any mass movement or other daily movement throughout the institution that require (sic) custody staff.” Id. at p. 20. Shields recommended dismissal of Mr. Dove's ARP complaint because of her view that he was not being denied an opportunity to practice his religion. Id. On February 12, 2018, Warden Armstead adopted the recommended disposition and observed that “no unlawful acts are being committed by Patuxent.” Id. at p. 16.

         In ARP PATX0250-18, filed on April 26, 2018, Mr. Dove complained that Property Officer Anderson was abusing his authority when he would not allow Mr. Dove to have a package mailed to him that contained red felt. ECF No. 10-2 at pp. 28-29. According to Mr. Dove, Officer Anderson told him there was a problem with the package because inmates are not allowed to have anything that is red. Id. at p. 29. During their exchange, Mr. Dove attempted to explain to Anderson that the Division of Correction Directives allowed inmates to have “any color headgear.” Id. The investigation into this complaint included an interview with Officer Anderson who explained that the red felt contained in the package was prohibited by Executive Directive Order OPS.220.0004 prohibiting inmates from possessing dark blue, black, red, or camouflage clothing or pieces of cloth. Id. at pp. 23-24, see also p. 26, Exec. Dir. OPS.220.0004.03 C.1.d. While the religious service manual (OPS.140.0002) does allow religious headgear of any color, the Executive Directive supersedes the religious service manual. Id. at p. 24. Warden Armstead dismissed the ARP complaint on May 18, 2018, noting the Executive Directive and observing that Sgt. Anderson was simply performing his duties properly. Id. at p. 22.

         On April 9, 2018, in ARP PATX0236-18, Mr. Dove complained about donated items for worship not being distributed. ECF No. 10-2 at pp. 49-50. Mr. Dove states that for over two months donated items were not released to the Native American group for worship services and asked that property room staff be instructed to forward all donated religious items to Chaplain Ingram for distribution. Id. at p. 50. The investigation into the complaint revealed that the donated items were ordered by an individual on Mr. Dove's visitor's list “or who are closely related to the inmate (based o[n] addresses and zip codes.”) Id. at p. 53. The donations were sent to Chaplain Ingram but were not approved after the package was inspected and found to contain “contraband and/or [items that] posed a legitimate security concern.” Id., see also pp. 56-63 (invoices for items sent). On that basis, the donations were held for further investigation. Id. at p. 53. Based on that information, Warden Armstead dismissed the ARP on August 7, 2018. Id. at p. 51.

         On May 13, 2018, Mr. Dove filed ARP PATX0298-18 complaining that Native American religious services had been cancelled the day before. ECF No. 10-2 at pp. 37-38. He explained that services were cancelled because of a “code that was called at 9:28 a.m.” but that he and others had early set-up passes for 8:30 a.m. Id. at p. 37. They were required to stay in a bull-pen waiting for an escort for 55 minutes and the code for a fight was called at a time when his group should have been outside worshipping already. Id. at pp. 37-38. The investigation into this complaint by Administrative Remedy Coordinator Cornae Shields included an email to Captain Daniel Little inquiring whether services had been cancelled on the day in question. Id. at p. 42. Captain Little responded[3] that religious services were not cancelled that day, but that inmate movement was on hold “while we contained the situation on E3.” Id. Warden Armstead dismissed the complaint on the basis that services were not cancelled. Id. at p. 39. There is no indication that Mr. Dove and other Native American inmates were permitted the full 90 minute period for worship following the delay. An appeal to the Commissioner of Correction of Armstead's dismissal resulted in an affirmation of her decision. Id. at p. 36.

         Although Defendants address the supplemental complaint, they do not address Mr. Dove's claim that his ...


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