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Hardwick v. Senato

United States District Court, D. Delaware

May 23, 2019


          Daniel M. Silver, Hayley J. Reese (argued), and Alexandra M. Joyce (argued), MCCARTER & ENGLISH, LLP, Wilmington, DE. Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Ryan P. Connell (argued), Deputy Attorney General, DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Wilmington, DE. Attorney for Defendants.



         Presently before me is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (D.I. 104). The Parties have briefed the issues. (D.I. 105, 110, 117, 124, 125). I heard oral argument on April 25, 2019.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff James Hardwick has been an inmate at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("Vaughn") since 2008. (D.I. 65 at¶¶ 2, 14). He is an Orthodox Jew. (See D.I. 111, Exhs. E-F). Following verification by a Rabbi, Vaughn officially recognized Mr. Hardwick's religious beliefs on March 21, 2012. (Id.). Mr. Hardwick's claims stem from issues he has had with practicing his Jewish faith at Vaughn since his recognition.

         A. The Defendants

         There are five Vaughn employees remaining as Defendants in this case: Christopher Senato, Gus C. Christo, James Simms, Ronald G. Hosterman, and Todd Drace.

         Mr. Senato works at Vaughn as a Regional Food Service Director for the Delaware Department of Correction. (D.I. 106 at 157, Senato Tr. 6:17-22). He is one of four Regional Food Service Directors at the Department of Correction. (Id., Senato Tr. 7:8). The Regional Food Service Directors report to the statewide Food Service Administrator. (Id., Senato Tr. 7:18-20). At Vaughn, Mr. Senato oversees four supervisors, thirty staff, and more than 200 inmate workers. (Id., Senato Tr. 8:2-3). His staff is responsible for feeding Vaughn's approximately 2, 300 inmates. (Id. at 162, Senato Tr. 37:6-8).

         Father Christo is employed by the Department of Correction to serve as a Chaplain at Vaughn. (Id. at 166, Christo Tr. 11:24-12:4). Much of Father Christo's job involves coordinating with security to resolve prisoners' religious requests. (Id., Christo Tr. 13:2-13). He reports to the Treatment Administrator. (Id.).

         Mr. Simms is or was a Correctional Treatment Administrator at Vaughn.[1] (Id. at 174, Simms Tr. 9:17-18). Mr. Simms replaced Mr. Hosterman when he retired. (Id. at 174-75, Simms Tr. 9:23-10:2). The job of the Correctional Treatment Administrator is to supervise treatment services, including correctional counselors, the chaplain, the braille instructor, and administrative support for those positions. (Id. at 175, Simms Tr. 10:14-19). The Treatment Administrator is part of senior staff and reports to one of the two Deputy Wardens. (Id. at 176, Simms Tr. 15:20-24).

         Mr. Hosterman worked as a Correctional Treatment Administrator at Vaughn from 2000 to 2016, when he retired. (Id. at 182, Hosterman Tr. 7:8-19). His duties as Treatment Administrator were largely identical to Mr. Simms'. (Id., Hosterman Tr. 9:5-12).

         Lt. Drace is a former Area Lieutenant at Vaughn. (Id. at 201, Hardwick Tr. 63:15-23). Mr. Hardwick alleges that Lt. Drace was running Vaughn's property room, where property is stored while an inmate is in the medical unit, when Mr. Hardwick was returned to the general population following medical treatment in 2015. (Id.).

         B. Kosher Diet

         Vaughn contracts with an outside vendor to provide kosher meals. (D.I. 111, Exh. I at 50:23-51:5). The meals are heated by inmate workers in a central kitchen and distributed to the compound. (Id. at 8:1-8, 11:15-12:4, 45:12-22). They are served, TV dinner-style, in individual trays. (D.I. 111, Exh. A at 25:12-19). The process for signing up to receive a kosher diet at Vaughn involves confirmation of an inmate's religion by the chaplain, Defendant Christo, and approval by the Regional Food Service Director, Defendant Senato. (D.I. 111, Exh. I at 10:10-11:4; 43:13-20).

         Once Vaughn recognized Mr. Hardwick as Jewish, he signed up for the kosher meal program and agreed to the conditions for participation in that program. (D.I. 111, Exh. I at 43:12-44:10). He was removed from the kosher meal program sometime prior to February 2, 2016 after he violated the program conditions. (D.I. 106 at 132). Although there is a process to request reinstitution of a kosher diet, he does not wish to be fed the currently available meals. (D.I. 111, Exh. A at 79:12-19).

         Mr. Hardwick has a number of complaints about his experience with Vaughn's kosher meal program. Significantly, he believes some of the kosher meals contain non-kosher cuts of meat. (Id. at 24:11-21). He raised this issue with Mr. Senato several times but continued to receive the offending pot roast meal. (Id. at 24:18-20, 70:23-72:4). Mr. Hardwick suggested that he should be allowed to supplement his meals with kosher peanut butter, but Mr. Senato did not approve his request. (Id. at 71:19-22). Mr. Hardwick also complains that the kosher diet is calorically insufficient. He estimates that he received only 1, 500 to 1, 800 calories a day while on the diet. (Id. at 51:16-22). He filed several grievances describing his concerns with the meals. (See D.I. 106 at 1-155). Mr. Hardwick also notes that Vaughn did not provide him with the Aleph Institute's matzo and grape juice meals on several occasions.[2] (See D.I. 111, Exhs. L, M, T).

         C. Congregational Worship

         Vaughn allows certain religious groups to congregate for worship. Specifically, three groups of Muslims worship on Friday, two groups of Catholics worship on Saturday, and three groups of Protestants worship on Sunday. (D.I. 106 at 170, Christo Tr. 26:3-14). The groups are kept to fewer than 100 inmates for security reasons. (Id.). Every religious service and inmate gathering is facilitated by a religious leader[3] or an outside volunteer. (D.I. 106 at 189, Hosterman Tr. 144:18-145:19). A Rabbi will not regularly visit a prison with fewer than ten verified Jewish inmates-inmates whose mothers were Jewish or who have gone through certain instruction. (Id. at 170-71, Christo Tr. 28:2-29:7). Although there are approximately nine inmates at Vaughn who identify as Jewish, only two were verified as of September 2018. (Id. at 162, Senate Tr. 37:17-21; Id. at 170, Christo Tr. 28:19-20; Id. at 196, Hardwick Tr. 33:22-34:4). Thus, the Aleph Institute sends a Rabbi only once a year. (Id. at 172, Christo Tr. 37:15-17). At one point, Vaughn allowed unsupervised gatherings of Jewish inmates on Friday nights to say a Shabbat prayer, but such gatherings are no longer permitted. (Id., Hosterman Tr. 143:8-144:17).

         D. Sukkot Tent and Other Religious Property

         In the past, Vaughn allowed inmates to use a Sukkot[4] tent. (Id. at 188, Hosterman Tr. 139:7-9). Following an expansion of the facility, however, security disposed of the tent. (Id., Hosterman Tr. 142:3-4; see also D.I. 11, Exh. Z). At some later point, Mr. Hardwick requested access to a Sukkot tent. (D.I. 111, Exhs. X-Z). He has not been given access to a tent. Mr. Hardwick has further requested, and not received, a number of other religious items, including a ram's horn, tzitzit, and tefillin. (D.I. 111, Exh. A at 31:4-19, 36:15-38:9).

         Mr. Hardwick has also had issues with the religious property that he is permitted to possess. In May or June 2016, Mr. Hardwick underwent a medical procedure. (See D.I. 110 at 6; D.I. 111, Exh. A at 64:2-7; D.I. 111, Exh. U). When an inmate goes to the medical department, his property is stored in the property room. (D.I. 111, Exh. A at 63:13-23). Defendant Todd Drace was covering the property room during Mr. Hard wick's visit to the medical department. (Id.). Lt. Drace did not return Mr. Hardwick's property for seven days after he was returned to the general population. (Id. at 64:7-8). When Mr. Hardwick's property was returned, it was returned without his religious books (the Code of Jewish Law, a prayer book, and a religious calendar), as they were deemed to be in excess of his property allowance (Id. at 64:13-65:2; D.I. 111, Exh. U), which allowed him to possess only three books at one time. (D.I. 111, Exh. A at 65:8-66:1). Lt. Drace did not permit him to choose which books he wished to retain. (Id.). A substantial amount of other, non-religious, property was also confiscated, including five homemade books, ten envelopes of newspaper clippings, 41 legal sized envelopes of legal paperwork, an auto tech book, and 33 magazines. (D.I. 111, Exh. V). He retained his prayer shawl and kippah. (D.I. 111, Exh. U).

         II. Legal Standard

         A. ...

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