Religion plays a vital role in the daily lives of many prisoners. For incarcerated persons, a connection to the divine can provide comfort during periods of isolation from their family and community. From a policy perspective, spiritual development and religious practice promote rehabilitation and reduce recidivism in inmates. While prisoners forfeit many of their civil liberties, Congress has ensured that religious exercise is not among them. As Congress enhanced religious freedom protections for prisoners, prison facilities became increasingly concerned that prisoners would feign religiosity to gain certain religious accommodations. To counter this concern, prison facilities conditioned accommodations on the sincerity of an inmate’s religious belief. Some facilities, however, instituted problematic methods for determining sincerity of religious belief, such as requiring physical evidence of doctrinal adherence or removing lapsing prisoners from religious accommodations.
The Right to Free Exercise of Religion in Prisons: How Courts Should Determine Sincerity of Religious Belief Under RLUIPA,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol20/iss1/4