A former drug addict who was sentenced to an Oregon correctional facility for driving with a suspended or revoked license has sued two correctional officers, charging that they showed hostility toward his Christian faith and refused to grant him the six months freedom he earned by finishing a rehabilitation program.
The case filed by the Pacific Justice Institute on behalf of Timothy Andrew Krueger in U.S. District Court in Oregon seeks nearly $200,000 in damages, plus punitive damages.
“Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have made clear that governments and their agents are not to show hostility to individuals based on their religious beliefs,” PJI President Brad Dacus said. “That includes prison inmates. The law recognizes that religion can have a positive impact on inmates in their efforts to rehabilitate themselves. The defendants in this case effectively punished Timothy Krueger for turning to Christianity to turn his life around, and they must be held accountable for that.”
Krueger entered the Oregon system in January 2017, and with time served and good behavior, expected to be released in July 2018.
“While incarcerated, Krueger rededicated himself to the Christian faith in which he was raised, but from which he had drifted away as an adult. Wanting to get clean from addiction as part of his repentance process, Krueger entered the Alternative Incarceration Program, a secular program at Powder River Correctional Facility in eastern Oregon. AIP is run by a private company, New Directions Northwest, under the supervision of the Oregon Department of Corrections. Upon completion of the program, Krueger was to be released six months before his expected release date,” PJI said.
However, the “counselor” assigned to his case throughout his stay “showed hostility toward his Christian faith,” even refusing to let him discuss its role in his life.
Despite this, Krueger completed the program and received a certificate.
He even served for a time as a mentor, tutor and community service coordinator for other inmates.
However, defendants Cynthia Flynn, an employee, and Sue Washburn, the superintendent of the Powder River Correctional Facility, then “conspired” to revoke the certificate, depriving him of the six months of freedom he earned under the program, the lawsuit charges.
The state Department of Corrections also is a defendant, as is the New Directions Northwest corporation.
The federal complaint alleges the defendants exhibited continued “hostility toward his faith,” causing him “tremendous mental and emotional distress.”
His subsequent complaint to the state agency was ignored.
The case alleges the defendants “deprived plaintiff of his First Amendment liberties of free speech and free exercise of religion by forbidding him to talk about his Christian faith in group therapy sessions.”
“Furthermore … Flynn, in her capacity as an employee of defendant New Directions … and Washburn, denied plaintiff equal protection of the laws, treating him like a second-class citizen for attempting to incorporate his Christian faith into his plan of rehabilitation.”
They also denied him “six months of physical liberty without due process of law.”
That cost him more than $17,000 in salary, and he seeks non-economic damages of $175,000 plus punitive damages.