Prisoner's suit seeks vegetables and $800,000

Steve Gonzalez Jan. 24, 2008, 12:22pm

An inmate serving a 10-year sentence for aggravated battery with a firearm filed suit against the Illinois Department of Corrections alleging he is being deprived of his rights to a vegetarian diet.

Torando Fairlee, an inmate at the Lawrence Correctional Facility, claims he cannot get a vegetarian meal because he is not affiliated with a specific religion that requires a vegetarian diet.

Fairlee claims he is allergic to meat products and has filed numerous grievances during the last 14 months in prison, but they have gone unanswered.

"The plaintiff has lost at least 30 pounds due to inadequate diet and a meal that's innutritious," Fairlee wrote in his pro se complaint.

He also claims he is struggling to purchase food items from the institution's commissary because he is indigent and has limited resources to outside funding.

Fairlee claims he is forced to trade his meat from his meal tray to other inmates for their vegetables.

He also claims that he has spoken to the prison chaplin and was informed that he could only assist in getting a vegetarian tray if he was affiliated with a specific religion.

"Plaintiff has become physically weak and is unable to exercise because he lacks the energy due to an inadequate and innutritious meal," Fairlee wrote.

"The defendants have refused to accommodate plaintiff with a full vegetarian meal which would allow him a nutritious stability and better health."

Fairlee claims by subjecting him to "grossly inhumane and dangerous conditions of confinement" and depriving him of an adequate meal, the defendants are acting with "deliberate indifference" to his serious health and safety needs, violating his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

"By placing and retaining plaintiff where the conditions of confinement impose on plaintiff atypical and significant hardships in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life, without affording plaintiff minimal notice, opportunity to be heard, and other procedural safeguards, Defendants have denied, and will continue to deny, plaintiff due process, in violation of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment," the complaint states.

Fairlee claims by refusing him a vegetarian diet with nutritional supplements, he will continue to suffer mental and physical impairment on his body in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

He is seeking a judgment that finds his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated, a permanent injunction requiring the defendants to provide him a vegetarian meal and nutritional supplements and $400,000 in compensatory damages and $400,000 in punitive damages.

The case has been assigned to District Judge Phil Gilbert in Benton.

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Organizations in this Story

Illinois Department of Corrections
1301 Concordia Ct
Springfield, IL 62702

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