PJI Files Suit to Vindicate Former Inmate’s Religious Rights

Salem, OR–Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed suit in federal district court against private and government parties who denied a Christian prison inmate his rightfully-earned freedom due to his faith.

Timothy Krueger, a former drug addict, entered Oregon’s prison system in January 2017 after pleading guilty to driving with a revoked license. He was sentenced to two years, but based on time served and the possibility of a reduction in time due to good behavior, Krueger had an expected release date of July 20, 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 (AIP), a secular program at Powder River Correctional Facility in eastern Oregon. AIP is run by a private company, New Directions Northwest (NDN), under the supervision of the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC). Upon completion of the program, Krueger was to be released six months before his expected release date.

Throughout Krueger’s time in AIP, the NDN counselor responsible for overseeing Krueger’s rehabilitation showed hostility toward his Christian faith, refusing to let him discuss its role in his rehabilitation. Krueger completed the program and even received a certificate and a medallion; however, the counselor later revoked the certificate and medallion. Based on the counselor’s recommendation, ODOC extended Krueger’s stay in AIP, and the counselor eventually flunked him out of the program due to a “lack of progress.” The counselor, who repeatedly accused Krueger of using his religion “as a crutch,” and NDN, supervised by ODOC, collectively denied Krueger the early release he had rightfully earned.

“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.”

PJI staff attorney Ray Hacke, operating out of PJI’s Oregon office, filed the lawsuit seeking damages against those parties, as well as Powder River’s superintendent, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon’s Pendleton Division.