Monday, August 06, 2007

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Hammons v. Jones, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55170 (ND OK, July 27, 2007), an Oklahoma federal district court rejected a challenge under RLUIPA to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections policy that prohibited in-cell possession of prayer oils. The oils could be used to mask the scent of drugs, and are lubricants that can be used in prohibited sex acts and to avoid or escape restraints. Permitting use of oils in prison religious facilities was found to be the least restrictive alternative to in-cell possession.

In Salgado v. Grams, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55129 (WD WI, July 30, 2007), a Wisconsin federal district court dismissed an inmate's RLUIPA and free exercise claims. Plaintiff alleged he was denied prayer oil, a prayer rug and prayer beads. However defendants explained that plaintiff never made a request for these items. Also plaintiff made no showing that he held sincere Muslim religious beliefs.

In Echols v. Ramos, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55248 (SD IL, July 31, 2007), an Illinois federal district court permitted a Rastafarian prisoner to proceed with his claim against prison officials (but not against the Department of Corrections) alleging that his First Amendment rights were infringed when he was informed he would be required to cut his dreadlocks.

In Toler v. Leopold, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55531 (ED MO, July 31, 2007), a Missouri federal district court refused to grant defendants summary judgment in a claim by a prisoner that the First Amendment and RLUIPA were violated when he was denied a kosher diet and instead limited to a vegetarian food option, the ability to self-select items from the menu, and the ability to purchase kosher food from the canteen.

In Barrett v. Williams, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39882 (D OR, June 6, 2007), an Oregon federal district court adopted the recommendations of a federal Magistrate Judge (2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55824) that a prisoner's First Amendment and RLUIPA claims be rejected. Inmate Jacob Barrett was not permitted to purchase a book, The Secret of the Runes, because he owed fines. The Magistrate found that this did not impose a substantial burden on Barrett's free exercise rights.

In Robinson v. Department of Corrections, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56355 (ND FL, June 6, 2007), a federal Magistrate Judge dismissed an inmate's Free Exercise claim, finding that the inmate failed to allege that withholding religious materials denied him a reasonable opportunity to pursue his religion. Also the court rejected the inmate's retaliation claim, finding he failed to show that withholding these materials was in retaliation for filing grievances.