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Jacob Ind v. Colorado Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 31, 2014

JACOB IND, Plaintiff,


WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ, District Judge.

On January 6-7, 2014, the Court held a two day bench trial on Plaintiff Jacob Ind's second claim of his operative Complaint, which alleged that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") is violated by the Defendant Colorado Department of Corrections's policy allowing offenders in levels two and three of administrative segregation to possess no more than two personal books at a time. ( See ECF Nos. 204, 268 & 269.) The following are the Court's final findings of fact and conclusions of law.


A. Ind's Incarceration at the CDOC

1. Ind is a prisoner who has been incarcerated in the Colorado Department of Corrections ("CDOC") for approximately 21 years. Transcript ("Tr.") at 55:6-8.

2. Colorado State Penitentiary ("CSP") is a Level V security correctional institution and is the CDOC's most secure facility for adult male offenders. It houses the most violent and dangerous offenders who have proven that they cannot be safely managed in a general population setting. Id. at 254:25; p. 256:7-9.

3. Limon Correctional Facility ("LCF") is a Level IV security facility, housing close-custody and medium-custody offenders. Id. at 262:7-15.

4. LCF is a general population facility and the offenders have most of the same privileges that other offenders have at general population facilities. Id.

5. CSP is home to the CDOC's administrative segregation unit. Id. at 268-69.

6. Currently, there are four levels of administrative segregation at CSP. See generally id. at 268-69.

7. Each level of administrative segregation at CSP comes with certain privileges or restrictions, including property restrictions. Id. at 270:6-8, 22-25.

8. When an offender is placed in administrative segregation, he begins at Level 2. Id. at 268:12-13.

9. After 90 days in Level 2, offenders will be evaluated for progression to Level 3. Id. at 268:14-15.

10. After 90 days in Level 3, offenders are evaluated for progression to Level 4A. Id. at 268:15-16.

11. After completing the "Thinking for a Change" program at Level 4A, offenders progress to a general population facility. Id. at 268:17-19.

12. There is also a Level 4B, similar to Level 4A, which is a long-term level for offenders who progress through Level 3 and are still deemed a security risk and are not ready for general population. Id. at 268:20-23.

13. Offenders at Level 4B have more privileges, are allowed to come out in groups of 8 people at a time, can be around staff, and can possess more property. Id. at 268:24-25; 269:1-2.

14. Level 4B offenders are not housed at CSP, but rather at Sterling Correctional Facility. Id. at 272:15-16.

15. Level 1 in administrative segregation is an optional demotion level that is reserved for offenders who compromise security within the facility. Id. at 269:3-8.

16. Offenders at Level 1 are reviewed for progression to Level 2 after 30 days. Id. at 269:10-11.

17. In all, administrative segregation is intended to be a temporary program that would ordinarily take nine months to complete. Id. at 268:8-9.

18. However, many offenders do not progress quickly through the administrative segregation program.

19. Ind was assigned to administrative segregation at CSP from September 15, 1995 to April 17, 2003 and again from September 17, 2007 until December 3, 2009, for a total of approximately 10 years. Stipulated Facts 3.

20. When this lawsuit was filed, Ind was incarcerated at CSP. Stipulated Facts 2; see also Tr. at 55:18-20.

21. While in administrative segregation at CSP, Ind was assigned to administrative segregation Level 1 initially but spent the majority of his time in either Level 2 or Level 3. Tr. at 64:16-25.

22. Ind was released from administrative segregation at CSP on December 3, 2009, and is currently incarcerated at LCF. Stipulated Facts 1; see also Tr. at 55:3-5.

B. Ind's Religious Beliefs

1. Ind's Christian Separatist Faith

23. Ind is a sincere follower of the Christian Separatist faith. Stipulated Facts 4; see also Tr. at 65:20-21, 139:13-140:14.

24. Christian Separatism is not the same as Christian Identity. Tr. at 66:9-10.

25. Under CDOC policies, Christian Separatism falls within the larger religion known as Christian Identity. Stipulated Facts 5; see also Tr. at 66:9-15.

26. Ind was a follower of Christian Identity from approximately 1994-1995 until he slowly converted to Christian Separatism around 2003-2004. See Stipulated Facts 6; see also Tr. at 66:16-20, 137:13-14.

27. Ind strives to adhere to Christian Separatist teaching. Stipulated Facts 9.

28. Ind is an associate member of the Christian Separatist Church Society which is the governing body of all branches of Christian Separatism. See Stipulated Facts 8; see also Tr. at 66:21-67:1.

29. While incarcerated, Ind has donated well over $1, 200 to various organizations that promote the religious and secular beliefs of Christian Separatism and/or Christian Identity such as an anti-abortion counseling center and an organization called Save the Children. Tr. at 67:2-19.

2. Ind's Need to Engage in Intense Religious Study

30. The Christian Separatist faith is a research-intensive faith, which mandates intense study from its followers as a fundamental part of the practice. Stipulated Facts 10; see also Tr. at 124:7-9.

31. Ind sincerely believes that in order to have "a personal relationship with Jesus, [he must] have a personal relationship with God's word, which means he has to truly understand what the word is." Tr. at 69:15-18.

32. Ind sincerely believes that he is required to know "what the true faith is and to know what God actually teaches" in order to be "saved from hell" and to ensure that he "[does not] violate scripture." Id. at 68:16-69:10.

33. Ind sincerely believes that salvation is dependent upon adhering to the correct doctrine and that believing any kind of lie or misinformation, whether religious or secular, can lead to damnation. Stipulated Facts 11.

34. Thus, Ind sincerely believes that he must "test all things, hold on to that which is good or true, [and] reject that which is bad or false." Tr. at 69:23-25.

35. In fact, the motto of his church-the Christian Separatist Church Society-is "prove all things." Id. at 70:2-3.

36. This motto is a "way of life" for Ind as a Christian Separatist in that he is required not to hold any beliefs that he has not proven to be true. Id. at 70:4-5.

37. Because speculation and other people's word "is not proof, " Ind is required to engage in study in order to "prove all things." Id. at 70:4-7.

38. Ind sincerely believes that without being able to study he cannot adequately test or prove what is good and true versus what is evil and false, and that without continuing study of the truth, one ends up opposing the truth and loses salvation. Stipulated Facts 12.

39. As part of his faith, Ind sincerely believes that God's Truth embodies not just the Bible, but also God's natural laws of creation and how to apply biblical and natural laws to daily life. Stipulated Facts 13.

3. Materials Ind Needs to Engage in the Necessary Study

40. To properly practice his religion, Ind believes that he needs a minimum of ten books, so long as he can exchange books when he no longer needs them. Ideally, Ind would prefer to have fifteen books at once. Tr. at 75:16-19.

41. At the time of trial, Ind was using fifteen books at LCF to practice his religion. Id. at 76:13-14.

42. Ind believes that he needs the following ten books at the same time in order to properly practice his religion:

a. the New Testament and Old Testament in English;
b. the New Testament and Old Testament in Greek;
c. the Old Testament in Hebrew;
d. A Greek lexicon and a Hebrew lexicon;
e. A Greek grammar guide and a Hebrew grammar guide; and
f. A Bible dictionary.

See generally id. at 70:8-75:15.

43. In order to fully understand the Bible's teachings, Ind requires different versions of both the New and Old Testaments of the Bible, including the Greek and Hebrew versions, to "understand what God was saying in the language he spoke." Id. at 70:19-23.

44. While Ind speaks English and relies on English translations of the Bible for day-to-day cursory readings, Ind believes that the English translations are "made by flawed man" meaning they are more likely to contain flawed doctrine. Id. at 71:4-23; see also id. at 126:24-127:1 (Ind explaining that he cannot put his trust in salvation in the "flawed words of man.").

45. For the New Testament, Christian Separatists study two separate books: (1) the Anointed Standard Translation in English; and (2) a Greek version, which was the original language of the New Testament. Id. at 70:11-12.

46. For the Old Testament, Christian Separatists study two separate books: (1) an English translation; and (2) the Greek Septuagint, which is the Old Testament translated from Hebrew into Greek 400 years before Christ. Id. at 70:13-16.

47. Having a Greek New Testament and a Greek Septuagint is necessary "because that's what [the] English was based on" so "to properly understand the English, sometimes [Christian Separatists] definitely go into the Greek." Id. at 70:19-22.

48. Because the Greek Septuagint was translated from the Hebrew Old Testament, Ind believes that it is "very necessary" to also consult the Hebrew Old Testament and the Masoretic Hebrew Texts in "places where the idiomatic Hebrew wasn't translated quite well in the [Greek] Septuagint, " in order to properly understand the Greek Septuagint. Id. at 70:23-71:3, 126:8-11.

49. Ind believes that the Greek and Hebrew texts provide "a better understanding of what God said" because they allow him to "understand the language he originally spoke in as opposed to [an English] translation which might not encompass the full meaning of God's word." Id. at 126:4-18; see also id. at 126:19-127:1 (Ind further explaining that he cannot rely on English translations as the "absolute word of God, because the absolute word of God was the original manuscripts.")

50. Because Ind is not fluent in Greek or Hebrew, he also needs books that help him translate Greek and Hebrew texts, including: (1) Greek and Hebrew lexicons; and (2) Greek and Hebrew grammar guides. Id. at 71:14-73:16.

51. Moreover, Ind needs theses reference materials in both Greek and Hebrew simultaneously because there are certain phrases in the Greek and Hebrew texts that "didn't get translated just quite right or translated idiomatically into the [Greek] Septuagint of the Old Testament." Id. at 73:20-23.

52. Ind also needs bible dictionaries and bible atlases, to help him understand what certain words in scripture mean, particularly words that are "foreign, " and to give him necessary background information. Id. at 74:15-22.

53. For example, if he is studying the Greek Septuagint and "something doesn't seem right, " he will have to go to the original Hebrew text-with the aid of a Hebrew lexicon, dictionary, or grammar guide-to understand "what they were getting at." Id. at 73:25-74:11.

54. These reference materials, for example, help differentiate between different people in the Bible that have the same name, they explain cultural practices that are necessary to understand the Bible, and they provide geographical information that is relevant to the proper understanding of the Bible. Id. at 74:22-75:12.

C. The CDOC's Policies Regarding Inmate Property

55. All authorized inmate property, including inmate books, magazines and other personal property, must fit within a three cubic feet CDOC-issued duffle bag. Stipulated Facts 14; see also Trial Ex. A50, AR 850-06 effective November 15, 2012 at CDOC 00992 (§ IV.G.3).

56. In addition to the three cubic feet CDOC-issued duffle bag, an inmate is allowed to have a two cubic feet box of legal papers. Stipulated Facts 15; see also Trial Ex. A50 at CDOC 00992 (§ IV.G.3.a).

57. Inmates may possess any number of loose papers and files, subject only to the personal property maximum of three cubic feet plus two cubic feet of legal papers. Stipulated Facts 22.

58. These property limitations apply to all inmates, including those housed at CSP under all privilege levels, although what an inmate is permitted to have in the three cubic feet of space differs based on the facility in which that inmate is housed and the inmate's security level. See Stipulated Facts 16; see also Tr. at 146:1-18.

1. Possession of Personal Books

59. Inmates in administrative segregation at CSP are severely limited in the amount of property they may possess compared to inmates in general population. Tr. at 201:8-20.

60. One such limitation relates to the possession of personal books; inmates at CSP are allowed to possess personal books provided they do not exceed the allowable book limits as follows:

a. CSP administrative segregation Level 1 - one book;
b. CSP administrative segregation Levels 2 and 3 - two books; and
c. CSP administrative segregation Level 4A - five books.

Trial Ex. A80, I/A 850-06 effective November 21, 2013 at pp. 6 (§ IV.N.3), 11.

61. While Ind was incarcerated at CSP, inmates in CSP administrative segregation Levels 1 through 3 were allowed to possess ...

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