Did Prison Officials Violate Inmate Religious Freedoms At Florence Federal Prison By Confiscating Rosaries, Bibles, and Prayer Beads, Asks Advocacy Group, A Just Cause

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Advocacy Group, A Just Cause, Asks Federal Bureau of Prisons and Members of Congress to inquire about confiscation of inmate personal religious property at Florence Prison Camp in Colorado.


Education, Awareness & Information About Judicial Injustice

The First Amendment guarantees, even to inmates, minimal government interference with the free exercise of religion.

The advocacy group, A Just Cause, calls on Federal Bureau of Prisons Director, Charles E. Samuels, Jr., to investigate reports of violations of religious freedoms at the federal prison camp in Florence Colorado.

“It has been brought to the attention of A Just Cause that personal religious property like Rosaries, Bibles, Prayer Beads and other religious property were confiscated by prison guards under the auspice of remedying a scabies outbreak at the prison camp in Florence, Colorado,” says Sam Thurman, of A Just Cause. "Confiscating religious property as part of a medical remedy does not align with BOP policies for handling scabies or its policy on religious freedom," argues Thurman.

According to WebMD, “Scabies is not an infection, but an infestation. Tiny mites called Sarcoptes scabiei set up shop in the outer layers of human skin. The skin does not take kindly to the invasion. As the mites burrow and lay eggs inside the skin, the infestation leads to relentless itching and an angry rash.” (WebMD, Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on May 09, 2014, http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/ss/slideshow-scabies-overview)

“In October 2014 the Federal Bureau of Prisons published an updated ‘clinical practice guideline’ called 'Scabies Protocol,'” says Thurman. “This document outlines for prison officials what scabies is and it also provides a ‘…detailed Step-by-Step Procedure for Managing Scabies in a correctional setting…’. This guideline does not call for confiscating inmates’ personal religious property like Rosaries, Bibles and the like,” adds Thurman.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons Clinical Practice Guidelines, Scabies Protocol (Scabies Protocol, Federal Bureau of Prisons Clinical Practice Guidelines, October 2014, http://www.bop.gov/resources/pdfs/scabies.pdf), scabies is transmitted by “Direct skin-to-skin contact…”. The guide goes on to state, “Sharing of clothing, bedding and towels can transmit the mite”. The guide calls for, “…linens, towels, and clothing of contacts to be laundered simultaneously (during treatments)…”. (Scabies Protocol, Federal Bureau of Prisons Clinical Practice Guidelines, October 2014, http://www.bop.gov/resources/pdfs/scabies.pdf).

“Nowhere is it stated in the BOP’s guideline that inmates’ personal religious belongings should be confiscated as part of treatment for scabies,” says Thurman. “Practicing one’s religion, whether it be Catholicism, Christianity, Islam, etc., is very important to inmates, and to take away their Rosaries, Bibles, and so forth is a very big deal,” adds Thurman.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons Program Statement for Religious Beliefs and Practices states inmate religious property includes, but is not limited to, personal property like rosaries, prayer beads, oils, prayer rugs, etc. (U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Program Statement, OPI: CPD/RSB, Number: P5360.09, 12/31/2004, Religious Beliefs and Practices, http://www.bop.gov/policy/progstat/5360_009.pdf)

“A Just Cause is calling on the Bureau of Prisons to ensure that inmates’ religious freedoms are not violated,” implores Thurman. “Granted, there are BOP policies and guidelines that gives a warden authority to take certain actions if there is a ‘threat to safety, security, or orderly running of the institution’, but to take away one’s religious property under the auspice of remedying a scabies outbreak does not fit any of the criteria cited in the practice guide for handling scabies or in the program statement for religious beliefs and practices,” argues Thurman.

A Just Cause is a 501c3, non-profit group that advocates for judicial fairness and accountability.

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AJC Communications Director
A Just Cause
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