Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Recent Prisoner Religious Exercise Cases In U.S. and Britain

In Ashmore v. Frank, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79235 (WD WI, Oct. 23, 2007), a prisoner claimed that while he was in temporary lockup for 26 days he was denied use of his Bible and attendance at religious services. A Wisconsin federal district court ruled that he can proceed with his claim if he amends his complaint to identify the individual defendants personally involved in the deprivation.

Singh v. Goord
, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78742 (SDNY, Oct. 9, 2007), involved a challenge by a Sikh prisoner to various policies of the new York Department of Corrections, attempting to obtain greater accommodation of a number of Sikh religious practices. Some of the claims were dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. However, the court permitted plaintiff to move ahead on his claim that he should be permitted to wear the kara (steel bracelet) and khanda (pendant), possess a second kanga (religious comb), possess longer turbans, remain in contact with religious articles during searches, and that prison religious exercise policies should be re-written to include Sikhs. It granted plaintiff summary judgment on separate packing and storage of his scriptures. It granted defendants summary judgment allowing them to require plaintiff to pray quietly instead of out loud, upholding the vegetarian diet plaintiff is now served, and permitting the identity card maintained by prison authorities.

In Britain, Muslim prisoners at a high security facility in Leeds are suing for $20 million in damages because of a mistake in the Ramadan menu. CFP yesterday reported that the menu offered ham sandwiches as one of the options. Ministry of Justice officials say it was merely a printing mistake, but some inmates claim they actually received ham sandwiches when they ordered cheese sandwiches, and that some were so hungry that they ate the religiously forbidden ham.