Ex-Inmate Can Sue NYC|for Anti-Muslim Bias

     MANHATTAN (CN) – A former Rikers Island inmate who claims that guards kept him from attending Muslim prayer services on 10 Fridays during five months he spent in the hole may have uncovered a “pattern of misconduct” in New York City prisons, a federal judge ruled.
     Kevin Phillip, 47, has been incarcerated for two years after being convicted of second-degree burglary. He is listed as a prisoner at the maximum-security Coxsackie Correctional Facility.
     When he sued the New York City Department of Corrections, its former commissioner and two wardens two years ago, Phillip was at the Anna M. Kross Center on Rikers Island. He claimed he had spent two stints in punitive segregation, in 2011 and 2012, over a five-month span.
     The first period lasted 36 days, and the second lasted 45 days, he says.
     Court papers do not specify the reasons for the punitive lock-ups.
     During the first period, Philip says, he filed a grievance about being kept from Friday-night Jumu’ah services, and that high-ranking prison officials promised to arrange for him to worship from the segregation day room.
     That promise did not resolve the problem for the rest of that period, or the next time in isolation, he claims.
     U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams ruled on Aug. 22 that, if proven, the nature of Phillip’s allegations “supports a conclusion that the denial was pursuant to a policy or custom.”
     “The consistent, repeated nature of plaintiff’s complaints and the fact that eight of the denials occurred after plaintiff’s first grievance was allegedly resolved in his favor further bolster this conclusion,” Abrams wrote in a 15-page opinion.
     Phillips claimed that “at least nine employees” knew about his situation, and that “at least three of them reached out to contact him about it,” according to the opinion.
     The city has until Sept. 5 to decide whether to pursue a settlement, and its new commissioner Joseph Ponte’s name will be added to the docket.
     City spokesman Nicholas Paolucci said the NYC Law Department disagrees with the court’s decision and is considering its options.

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