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RUNNING HEAD: O'Lone v.

Estate of Shabazz

O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz

RUNNING HEAD: O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz

Introduction
OLone v. Estate of Shabazz was a Supreme Court decision made in 1987 that ruled
that it was not a violation of the first clause of the First Amendment. The clause was the Free
Exercise Clause that made it legal to deprive an inmate [Blischak, 1987]
Religious freedom is one of the most important principles of liberty in the civil rights
that is to be upheld regardless of state. Federal law dictates the right of each citizen of the United
States of America to practice religious customs based upon his or her beliefs. This law is also
applicable in prisons. The restrictions we see in prisons related to religious freedom are
contributed by an increase in security concerns some necessary, others exaggerated.
The Shabazz plaintiffs complained that due to their minimum security status, they
were forced to work outside the prison facility where their Friday Juma serviced were offered.
(Muslims are obliged by their faith to offer Friday (Juma) prayers which are usually held during
noon). The first trial did not prove to be favorable for Shabazz as the jury found no violation of
the First Amendment.
To challenge the claim by the jury, the Shabazz court put into consideration the case
of Turner vs. Safley (1987) and used the four factors expressed in that case. [Blischak, 1987]
If the plaintiff demonstrated that there was no connection between government
interest in restriction policies and the government had failed to express neutrality and absence of
biasedness regarding religion, then the challenged rule and policy violates the First Amendment.
The court largely favored the claims made by the prison officials. Their argument was
justified by several major points. Firstly, forbidding the inmates from reentering the prison

RUNNING HEAD: O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz

facility until after the working day prevented overcrowding and allowed to staff to clean and
manage the facility in order to maintain order.
Secondly, the prison facility had already made several accommodations to the Muslim
inmates including the serving of Muslim diets that included pork and alcohol free meals.
Moreover, asserting to the inmates right to attend religious services would lead to charges of
favoritism and would overburden the staff. [Blischak, 1987]
Facts of the case
Muslims, by faith are obliged to offer prayers five times a day. On Friday, however,
theyre to offer a Friday prayer that is obligatory for them. The prayer usually involves a
gathering in which the prayer leader or Imam delivers a sermon and then leads the prayers that
every participant offers.
According to Muslim beliefs, those who do not offer Friday prayers for three
consecutive ways are not in the fold of Islam. It is therefore a very serious issue for Muslims
who are devout in their beliefs. Within the New Jersey Federal Prison, inmates were allowed to
work outside their prison facilities until dusk.
This allowed the facilities management to do some maintenance in the prison and
restore order. However, the Muslims could not offer their Friday prayers as this continued for
weeks in a row. The Muslims petitioned that it was a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the
First Amendment that their religious rights were not being provided to them.
The Muslims were in fact put to work the entire day of Friday and were not allowed
to take a break and return to their facilities during noon. The Muslim inmates therefore were not

RUNNING HEAD: O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz

able to perform one of the most vital parts of their religious obligations and did not feel that they
were given religious rights within the prison

The officials working at the institution had their own justification as to why they
would not allow Muslim inmates to go inside and practice their Friday rituals. They presented
the following arguments in court that eventually won them the case:
1) Prison institutions are hard to manage. They require utmost require and the highest level
of security to manage the criminals residing within. The authorities are specially trained
to handle the internal environment and have several protocols that they have to follow in
order to maintain order within the institutions. The institutions also need to be cleaned
and managed. In order to do so, the inmates have to be transferred to some other location
to protect the cleaning staff.
2) Normally, within prison institutions, it is normal, that inmates are sent outside their cells
in to the prison yards where they are allowed to play and relax and are sometimes
assigned duties. According to the opposition of the case, the basic prison maintenance
operations could not be conducted if the Muslim population was allowed to reenter the
building. Therefore, preventing them from entering the building at the cost of their Friday
rituals was justified
3) The prison management also claimed that Muslims inmates were already treated
specially within the confines of the prison. This is because their diets were separately
made because their faith disallowed them to consume pork or anything that had alcohol in
it. Moreover, any meat they ate was extracted from animals that were executed in the
name of their God which was essential to them. It was already quite a burden to keep

RUNNING HEAD: O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz

Muslim inmates within the prison and make them feel treated equally. Moreover, the
persistent bad behavior of the sect did not make it any less difficult for the prison officers
to maintain order and provide justice
4) Since Muslims were already being treated specially within the institution, it wasnt long
before other religious sects requested a change in the way of conducting things to align
the regulations with their own religious beliefs. The prison would then become a religious
haven with almost everyone claiming to have been treated badly.
The facts therefore were simple. The Muslims claimed disrespect to their religious
beliefs whereas the management of the prison institution claimed that their actions were justified
and did not break any law of the Constitution. The management also claimed that as inmates,
they were being provided religious freedom but setting aside the day of Friday for Muslim
worship was asking too much.
Critical issues emerged with those detainees doled out to outside work subtle
elements. Some abstained from reporting for their assignments, while others discovered purposes
behind coming back to the principle building over the span of the workday (counting their
longing to go to religious administrations). Confirmation demonstrated that the arrival of
detainees amid the day brought about security dangers and regulatory weights that jail authorities
discovered inadmissible. Since points of interest of detainees were administered by one and only
monitor, the entire subtle element was compelled to come back to the principle door when one
detainee coveted to come back to the office.
The entryway was the site of all approaching foot and vehicle activity amid the day,
and jail authorities saw it as a high security hazard range. At the point when a detainee returned,
vehicle activity was deferred while the prisoner was signed in and looked.

RUNNING HEAD: O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz

Statue
The statue that triggered the issue was the First Amendment to the United States
Constitution. The Muslims within the prison facility claimed that their First Amendment rights
were being withheld by the prison authorities.
The First Amendment states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people
peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
In 1983, the New Jersey Department of Corrections issued Standard 853, in which
inmates could no longer move from maximum security to full minimum status. This was to
ensure that maximum security and order was maintained within the prison institution.
[Rachanow, 1998]
To resolve the issue of overcrowding, the department also issued that intermediate
gang minimum status inmates were to work outside the building. A majority of the Muslim
inmates befell in the intermediate gang minimum status which caused uproar every Friday.
Because of these burdens, Leesburg authorities found a way to guarantee that those
allocated to outside subtle elements stayed there for the entire day. Therefore, game plans were
made to eat and required prescriptions conveyed out to the detainees, and meetings with
specialists and social laborers were planned for the late evening. This furthermore prevented
Muslims from offering prayers during the days other than Friday.
Outcome

RUNNING HEAD: O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz

The court carefully considered the legal implications of both the stances and based its
conclusion on several factors. The court deduced logically the solution to the dispute.
In considering whether a potential strategy for settlement is sensible, the court
included, important components incorporate expense, the impacts of congestion, understaffing,
and prisoners' shown proclivity to boisterous behavior. The case was remanded to the District
Court for reevaluation under the models identified in the assessment. [Rachanow, 1998]
They allowed certiorari to consider the essential government sacred issues introduced
by the Court of Appeals' choice, and to determine obvious disarray among the Courts of Appeals
on the correct models to be connected in considering detainees' free practice claims.
Several general principles were considered while formulating a decision:
1) According to Bell v. Wolfish, convicted prisoners do not forfeit all constitutional
protections by reason of their conviction and confinement in prison.
2) The impediments on the activity of sacred rights emerge both from the reality of
imprisonment and from substantial penological destinations - including discouragement
of wrongdoing, restoration of detainees, and institutional security.
3) The consequent approach restricting comes back to the organization amid the day
additionally passes gather under this standard. Jail authorities affirmed that the profits
from outside work points of interest created clog and defers at the primary entryway, a
high-chance region in any occasion. [Rachanow, 1998]
After carefully reviewing each stance, the decision of the United States Court of
Appeals was reversed and the prison authorities won the case. The following justification was
presented by the court to both parties for the binding judgment that the court presented:

RUNNING HEAD: O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz

1) The prison regulations imposed by the prison authorities on the Muslim inmates did not
violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The Muslims that were
imprisoned were already being given a lot of respect for their religion and any further
treatment would prove to be an act of injustice to the various other religious minorities
living within the prison.
2) The Muslim religious obligations could not be accommodated as it created a lot of
security problems that violated the prison regulatory code. According to Standard 853, all
prison inmates were bound to work outsides during the day. So in accordance with the
standard Federal Prison Policy in effect, it was difficult to manage Muslims that wished
to go inside the building for their Friday services.
Other opinions
The court also considered the various Muslim laws including the Shariah law that
governs the Muslim faith on the importance of the Juma. They reached the conclusion that it was
indeed a very important ritual in the Islamic faith that Muslims attend their Friday services.
The judges did consider the First Amendment and opened up the sanctions of the Free
Exercise Clause that clearly stated that the state would not interfere with the religious obligations
of the citizens.
Conclusion
The O'lone V. Estate of Shabazz case brought up questions and raised attention towards
the issue of how prison regulations are often claimed to inhibit the exercise of constitutional
rights of the prisoners. The Muslim prisoners and inmates at the New Jersey prison brought suit
under 42 USCS 1983 that the new policies adopted by prison were in violation of their rights to

RUNNING HEAD: O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz

religious freedom under Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The first policy of the
state prison required that the prisoners and inmates would work outside of the housing building,
while the second policy required the prisoners to remain outside throughout the day and not
return to their housing building. The Federal District Court ruled against their appeal and decided
that no constitutional violation was present within the New Jersey prison policies.
The reason why the inmates made the appeal in the first place was largely because they
felt that they were being robbed of their religious freedom. Since the first clause of the of the
First Amendment grants religious freedom to everybody residing within the U.S, the Muslim
inmates immediately recognized that their rights were somehow being taken away. The Muslim
inmates were specifically required to be out of their housing buildings and work throughout
Friday. Since Friday holds a very essential religious importance for Muslims, the inmates used
this primary aspect to forward their case. The Muslim prisoners hoped to achieve the following
as a result of this case:
-

To revert New Jerseys prison policies that required the prisoners to work all day on

Friday.
To be able to say their Friday congregational prayers together since that holds a
significant importance for Muslims.
However, there are some very important factors that the Federal Court of Justice

reviewed prior to making the final decision against the appeal of the prisoners. These include:
1

The inmates demanding the appeal were known criminals and offenders. Maintaining
discipline would be a risk and put significant burden on the management to maintain
order.

RUNNING HEAD: O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz

If the Muslims are granted this appeal, the rest of the minority group would demand
similar religious freedoms that the prison currently does not support. This would raise

issues of unfair treatment.


The New Jersey Prison already went to extreme lengths to ensure that the Muslims
were allowed to practice their religion freely within the prison vicinity. For example,
the Muslims inmates were provided with pork-free and alcohol-free diet to remain in
compliance with their Islamic faith.

Firstly, the Muslims prisoners that made the appeal were criminals and serious offenders who
posed a significant threat not only to the management of the prison, but also to other prisoners
who were held within its vicinity. Allowing these criminals to be grouped together in order to say
their Friday Congregational prayers would require additional management and disciplinary staff
in order to maintain discipline throughout this religious activity. Furthermore, the prison
management would be dealing with constant risk of any mishaps that might happen during such
a grouping of known criminals.
A second important issue that was brought up was that of how allowing Muslim inmates
to carry out this religious activity would bring up issues of fair treatment since the rest of the
criminals within the prion would demand that they be granted the freedom to carry out their
own religious activities that they are currently not allowed to carry out. This would not only
raise further issues for the prison management but would also raise questions from the public
whether the prisoners are being treated fairly in terms of being granted their religious
freedom.
Lastly, the New Jersey prison administration already had various accommodations for the
all of the minority inmates residing within their vicinity. The prison went to extreme lengths

RUNNING HEAD: O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz

and pains to ensure that the Muslims were granted pork-free and alcohol-free diet in order to
facilitate the Muslims in remaining in compliance with their Islamic faith. They ensured that
the prison did not in any way affect their religious practices and regulations. Hence, the issue
of being granted Friday congregational services was ruled out. The Federal Court of Justice
decided that the New Jersey prison was not in any way violating the religious rights of the
Muslims inmates or any other minority religious group for that matter. The case was
eventually ruled against the appeals of the Muslim criminals.

References
Blischak, M. P. (1987). O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz: The State of Prisoners' Religious
Free Exercise Rights. Am. UL Rev., 37, 453.
Rachanow, S. S. (1998). The Effect of O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz on the Free
Exercise Rights of Prisoners. Journal of Church and State, 125-148.

RUNNING HEAD: O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz

O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 US 342 - 1987 - Supreme Court. Retrieved from:
https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/482/342/case.html