In New York, inmates have rights to freedom of religion, protected under the First Amendment and RLUIPA. They cannot be subjected to medical procedures conflicting with their religious beliefs, as upheld by courts, ensuring religious accommodation within correctional facilities. In Redd v. Wright, 597 F.3d 532 (2d Cir. 2010) plaintiff Kevin Redd, who was an inmate at Auburn Correctional Facility, argued that their religious freedoms where violated because he refused to to take a test for TB.
The Department of Corrections (DOCS) conducts routine purified protein derivative (PPD) tests on inmates to detect latent tuberculosis (TB) infections. In 1996, DOCS established a policy where inmates who refused the PPD test were counseled and then placed in TB hold, resulting in keeplock status in their cells. These inmates were offered the PPD test daily for one week, weekly for one month, and monthly thereafter. Refusal led to one year in TB hold, during which three chest x-rays were taken. After a year and three negative x-rays, inmates could return to the general population.
In TB hold, inmates had limited contact with others, including restricted phone use and personal visits. They were confined to their cells but were not placed in respiratory isolation. Inmates who took the PPD test were released from TB hold immediately.
In April 2001, Redd, an inmate at Auburn Correctional Facility, was placed in TB hold after refusing the PPD test for religious reasons. Despite offering to undergo sputum testing, Redd was subjected to the 1996 Policy of TB hold and three chest x-rays. After negative results, he was released in May 2002.
Redd filed a lawsuit in April 2004, alleging violations of his constitutional rights by DOCS officials. He claimed violations of the First Amendment and RFRA for being forced to take the PPD test, Eighth Amendment violations for indefinite TB hold, and Fourteenth Amendment violations for not being released after a year. He sought monetary damages from Dr. Lester Wright, Superintendent Hans Walker, successor John Burge, and Nurse Administrator C. Coynel.
The plaintiff, Redd, had asked the court to rule that his confinement under the 1996 TB hold policy violated his First Amendment religious rights and RLUIPA, as it unreasonably burdened his free exercise of religion. However, the court found that these rights were not clearly established at the time, so the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Additionally, Redd had challenged the conditions of his confinement under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, claiming they constituted cruel and unusual punishment and deprived him of due process. The court rejected these claims, stating that the conditions did not violate constitutional standards and that Redd had no protected interest in immediate release after one year. Furthermore, the court denied Redd’s claim of being denied regular showers or exercise, as it was not in the original complaint. It refused to allow him to amend it, deeming it unfairly prejudicial to the defendants.
The issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the defendants on the plaintiff’s claims, including violations of his First Amendment rights, RLUIPA, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and denial of regular showers or exercise.
The court rejected the plaintiffs claims that his Constitutional rights has been violated.
The court determined that the plaintiff’s claims regarding his First Amendment rights and Eighth Amendment rights lacked clarity in their establishment during the relevant time period. Under RLUIPA and the First Amendment, the plaintiff needed to demonstrate that the state imposed a substantial burden on his religious exercise. However, at the time of the alleged violation, it was not clearly established by the Supreme Court or the Second Circuit that the policies in question violated these rights. The court emphasized the need for specificity in defining constitutional rights for qualified immunity purposes and found that the plaintiff’s characterization of his right was not sufficiently specific.