Can a jail deny an inmatehis Bible?

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Can a jail deny an inmatehis Bible?

I have a friend who jumped bond earlier this year. He has turned himself in but the jail has denied him his paperback Bible. Is this legal? Charges were theft under $500.

Asked on June 21, 2011 under Personal Injury, Tennessee

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

He has a potential claim for a violation of his first amendment rights to freedom of relifion. Even though rights can be taken away from prisoners, the courts have ruled there is no reason for religious scriptures (e.g. bibles) to be kept from prisoners. Particularly if no safety issue is present, as in the case of a paperback book.
 
Additionally,  jails and prisons which accept federal prisoners place are subject to a federal law known as the Religious Land Use of Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA").  The act provides for the protections of religious rights unless the jail or prison can establish a compelling state interest in the denial; additionally the manner of denial must be the least restrictive means possible to meet the compelling state interest.

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