Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘rluipa

The California Budget Crisis and Prisoners’ Religious Rights

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The Jewish Daily Forward has an interesting article on how California’s budget crisis is affecting the Kosher Diet Program offered to Jewish prisoners:

Though state prisons continue to receive their kosher food allotments, said [Rabbi Lon] Moskowitz, the Jewish representative on the CDCR’s Chaplains Coordinating Committee, several of the facilities no longer have masgichim, or kosher food inspectors, to ensure that the allotments are, indeed, kosher.

Moskowitz, who is the Jewish chaplain at the California Men’s Colony, also told the Forward that

funds were lacking for essential religious artifacts, and for things such as “grape juice, matzo and candles for Shabbat.” Inmates, he said, “have less access to chapel services and true religious opportunities for prayer, study, penitential counseling, behavior modification programs and rehabilitation.” The situation for chaplains has become increasingly frustrating, he charged: “There is a steady move from being professional clerics to clerical workers spending most of the day doing administrative [work] and paperwork.”

California’s Kosher Diet Program was instituted in 2003 after a Jewish inmate brought a successful lawsuit under the First Amendment and RLUIPA, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the 2000 federal law that governs prisoners’ religious rights. The Forward article suggests that too many cuts to the Kosher Diet Program, or similar programs for inmates of other faiths, could invite further litigation from prisoners.

Written by sara

June 8, 2011 at 10:13 am

SCOTUS Cases to Watch in the Upcoming Term

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So far, the upcoming Supreme Court term looks to have a few interesting prisoners’ rights cases in the pipeline, including those listed below. I’ll alert readers again when the oral arguments are coming up. In the meantime, all the basic info and briefing for each case are easily available thanks to the folks over at (the newly redesigned) SCOTUSblog:

  • Skinner v. Switzer — Can a convicted prisoner seeking access to biological evidence for DNA testing raise this claim through a Section 1983 lawsuit, or must he raise it on a habeas petition?
  • Sossamon v. Texas — Are states and state officials subject to suit for violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)?
  • Schwarzenegger v. Plata — The next round in the ongoing class action litigation over overcrowding in the California prison system.

Written by sara

September 8, 2010 at 7:43 am

Tenth Circuit Partially Reinstates Lawsuit over Oklahoma Inmate’s Access to Halal Meat

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Madyun Abdulhaseeb, an Oklahoma inmate and practicing Muslim, filed a lawsuit against the state department of corrections including a litany of claims, mostly revolving around allegations that the prison system has violated his religious freedoms in a variety of ways, from failing to provide a full-time Muslim spiritual leader to passing out Christian pamphlets at Christmas time. In total, Absulhaseeb brought 17 claims, under both Section 1983 (the generic statute that allows for lawsuits over constitutional violations) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), which specifically covers religious freedom protections in the land use and prison contexts.

The Tenth Circuit recently upheld the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the state on most of the counts, but remanded to the district court for further proceedings on Abdulhaseeb’s two RLUIPA claims:

Mr. Abdulhaseeb established that he was entitled to proceed with his RLUIPA claims, first, that his religious exercise was substantially burdened when officials at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (OSP) denied his request for a halal diet and, second, when officials at the Great Plains Correctional Facility (GPCF) denied his request for halal meat for an Islamic feast. (PDF p. 3)

It appears from the facts in the opinion that, when Abdulhaseeb requested halal meals, he was repeatedly told that Oklahoma prisoners could request a non-pork or vegetarian diet, but he was denied a diet including halal meat. In the prison where he’s currently incarcerated, the options are non-pork, vegetarian, and kosher, but again, no halal — and in any event, Oklahoma policy restricts kosher diets to Jewish inmates (PDF pp. 8, 30).

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