59 F.Supp.2d 156 (D.Mass. 1999), Civ. A. 98-11156, Denson v. Marshall

Docket Nº:CIV. A. 98-11156-WGY.
Citation:59 F.Supp.2d 156
Party Name:Macarthur DENSON, Plaintiff, v. John MARSHALL, Jr. and Mark Powers, Defendants.
Case Date:July 12, 1999
Court:United States District Courts, 1st Circuit, District of Massachusetts

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59 F.Supp.2d 156 (D.Mass. 1999)

Macarthur DENSON, Plaintiff,


John MARSHALL, Jr. and Mark Powers, Defendants.

No. CIV. A. 98-11156-WGY.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts.

July 12, 1999

MacArthur Denson, South Walpole, MA, Pro se.

Ann M. McCarthy, Boston, MA, for John H. Marshall, Jr., Mark Powers, Defendants.


YOUNG, Chief Judge.

I. Introduction

The plaintiff, Macarthur Denson ("Denson"), a practicing Muslim, is a state prison inmate housed at the Cedar Junction Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Walpole ("Cedar Junction"). Denson, brings this civil rights action against Cedar Junction Superintendent John Marshall, Jr. ("Marshall") and Cedar Junction Deputy Superintendent Mark Powers ("Powers") for violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the United States Constitution

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and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.

II. Background

Denson is serving a ten year disciplinary sentence in the Department Disciplinary Unit ("the Unit") at Cedar Junction for raping a female therapist at the Massachusetts Treatment Center on July 10, 1997. At the time of the attack, Denson was serving a prison term for a previous conviction of aggravated rape.

The Unit consists of inmates found guilty of serious and repetitive disciplinary offenses while in prison. See Marshall Aff. of Oct. 28, 1998 ("Marshall Aff. I") at ¶ 3. The Unit houses "the most violent, assaultive and disruptive inmates in the Commonwealth." Id. Inmates are sentenced to the Unit as a punitive measure in order to deter their own and other inmates' serious misconduct in the Commonwealth's prisons. See id. Consequently, the Unit is a restrictive environment. See id. While prisoners can earn certain privileges for good behavior such as telephone calls, social visits, and television, they do not have canteen privileges, except to buy postage stamps. See id. at pp 3, 4.

On April 23, 1998, Denson sent a letter to Marshall seeking special food arrangements in order to observe three religious fast days per month. See Pl. Mem., Ex. A. These fasts typically occur in the middle of the month and require observers to abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset. See Rahim Aff. at ¶ 6. Because Denson cannot purchase food at the canteen, he asked Marshall to replace his regular meals on fast days with the caloric equivalent of cereal, milk, bread, peanut butter and jelly that he can eat before and after daylight hours. See Pl. Mem., Ex. A. On May 19, 1998, Powers informed Denson that his request had been denied. See id. at Ex. B. Denson filed suit on June 6, 1998.

Both parties moved for summary judgment. In a Memorandum and Order, this Court (1) granted Marshall and Powers' motion on Denson's Religious Freedom Restoration Act claim and denied their motion on Denson's remaining claims, (2) ordered Marshall and Powers to comply with Denson's request or submit supplemental summary judgment materials within sixty days, and (3) declined to rule on Denson's motion pending further submissions by Marshall and Powers. See Denson v. Marshall, 44 F.Supp.2d 400, 403 (D.Massachusetts1999). Marshall and Powers submitted a supplemental motion for summary judgment on May 28, 1999, to which Denson responded with his own...

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