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Arkansas Must Acknowledge Prisoner's Muslim Name

The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Arkansas prison
officials must acknowledge a Muslim prisoner's Islamic name.

An Arkansas state prisoner of the Islamic faith who had his name legally
changed to Bilal Ali Salaam while imprisoned brought pro se civil rights
action against prison officials for refusing to acknowledge the Muslim name
in violation of his right to free exercise of religion. Salaam sought
injunctive relief. A U.S. district court, upon remand, Salaam v. Lockhart,
856 F.2d 1120 (8th Cir. 1988), denied relief. Salaam appealed.

The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded, holding
that Salaam's First Amendment rights were unreasonably restrained by the
prison's policy of using only his committed name on clothing, in prison
records, and on the mailroom delivery list. See: Salaam v. Lockhart, 905
F.2d 1168 (8th Cir. 1990).

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Related legal case

Salaam v. Lockhart

Salaam v. Lockhart, 905 F.2d 1168 (8th Cir. 06/13/1990)


[2] Nos. 89-2341, 89-2355

[3] 905 F.2d 1168

[4] filed: June 13, 1990.


[6] Appeal From the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. H. David Young, Judge.


[8] Counsel who presented argument on behalf of the appellants was Richard T. Donovan, Little Rock, Arkansas.

[9] Counsel who presented argument on behalf of the appellees was Leslie M. Powell, Little Rock, Arkansas.

[10] Arnold, Circuit Judge; Heaney, Senior Circuit Judge; and Bowman, Circuit Judge.

[11] Author: Heaney

[12] HEANEY, Senior Circuit Judge.

[13] In 1984, while incarcerated in an Arkansas state prison, Bilal Ali Salaam had his name legally changed by a state court after he converted to the Islamic faith. Salaam brought a pro se suit in 1986 seeking injunctive relief from the policy of Arkansas prison authorities to use only committed names on prison records and clothing, and in the mail room. The district court refused to appoint counsel and denied the claim in all respects. We reversed and remanded the matter for consideration under Turner v. Safley,482 U.S. 78, 96 L. Ed. 2d 64, 107 S. Ct. 2254 (1987). Salaam v. Lockhart, 856 F.2d 1120, 1123 (8th Cir. 1988) (Salaam I). In particular, we noted that the easy availability of an "a/k/a alternative," the addition of Salaam's new name following his committed name on his clothing, in the prison records, and on the mail room delivery lists, might prove that the present prison policy was unreasonable. Id. The magistrate held a hearing and determined that the mail room policy was unreasonable but that the prison could continue to refuse to add Salaam's new name to his committed name in its files and on his clothing.*fn1 We hold that the state authorities must deliver mail to Salaam addressed to him only as Salaam and must allow the addition of Salaam's current name to his clothing. The state, however, need reform its record keeping only to the extent necessary to allow Salaam to receive services and information in his new name within the prison.

[14] I.

[15] [Prison] is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures . . . which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, waking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. It is not so with members of the general adult population. State governments have not undertaken to require members of the general adult population to rise at a certain hour, eat at certain hours, live for periods with no companionship whatever, wear certain clothing, or to submit to oral and anal searches after visiting hours, nor have state governments undertaken to prohibit members of the general adult population from speaking to one another, wearing beards, embracing their spouses, or corresponding with their lovers.*fn2

[16] Nevertheless, "[prison] walls do not form a barrier separating prison inmates from the protections of the constitution." Turner,482 U.S. at 84. Among those rights that they possess, prisoners retain the right to the free exercise of religion. O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz,482 U.S. 342, 348, 96 L. Ed. 2d 282, 107 S. Ct. 2400 (1987).

[17] Salaam subscribes to the Islamic faith.*fn3 He understands his faith to require his name to take on one of the attributes of God, and he finds his former name offensive to his beliefs. Tr. at 11-12.*fn4 A personal name is special. It may honor the memory of a loved one, reflect a deep personal commitment, show respect or admiration for someone famous and worthy, or, as in this case, reflect a reverence for God and God's teachings. Like a baptism, bar mitzvah, or confirmation, the adoption of a new name may signify a conversion and the acceptance of responsibilities of membership in a community. The defendants do not contest that Salaam's name change was religiously motivated, that his new name has spiritual significance, or that their policy infringes on his free exercise rights.*fn5 Instead, they argue that the policy reasonably reflects the state's interest in security and administrative efficiency

[18] Prison regulations that infringe on the constitutional rights of prisoners are judged by their reasonableness. Prison officials are not required to choose the least restrictive means possible in furthering administrative interests. Thornburgh v. Abbott,490 U.S. 401, 104 L. Ed. 2d 459, 471, 109 S. Ct. 1874 (1989); O'Lone, 482 U.S. at 350; Turner, 482 U.S. at 90-91. We consider four factors to determine if the regulation is reasonable: (1) whether it rationally and actually advances a neutral and legitimate government interest; (2) whether the prisoner has alternative means of exercising the same right; (3) the effect proposed accommodations will have on prison resources; and (4) whether the existence of "obvious, easy alternatives" that impose a de minimis cost reflect the regulation's lack of reasonableness. Turner,482 U.S. at 89-91.

[19] Our usual prefatory declaration that prisoners retain certain basic constitutional rights has meaning. We would misconstrue the recent Supreme Court decisions in Abbott, O'Lone, and Turner if we deferred not only to the choices between reasonable policies made by prison officials but to their justifications for the policies as well. "'[A] reasonableness standard is not toothless,'" Abbott,104 L. Ed. 2d at 473 (citing the government's certiorari petition). We must make sure after an independent review of the evidence that the regulation is not an exaggerated response to prison concerns. Abbott,104 L. Ed. 2d at 476; Turner, 482 U.S. at 96-99 (finding Missouri prison marriage regulations unreasonable after an independent review of the evidence). While we may not invalidate a regulation because we can imagine a more refined one, constitutional rights should be accommodated. We cannot validate prison regulations that are clearly broader in their scope or significantly more burdensome in effect than reasonable alternatives. Turner,482 U.S. at 91 (relatively unburdensome alternatives can demonstrate unreasonableness). *fn6 Nor do alternatives have to be entirely cost-free; costs that are insubstantial in light of the overall maintenance of the prison are acceptable.

[20] In the necessarily closed environment of the correctional institution, few changes will have no ramifications on the liberty of others or on the use of the prison's limited resources for preserving institutional order. When accommodation of an asserted right will have a significant "ripple effect" on fellow inmates or prison staff, courts should be particularly deferential. . . .

[21] Turner, 482 U.S. at 90. Our review is plenary. Benzel v. Grammer, 869 F.2d 1105, 1108 (8th Cir. 1989); Salaam I, 856 F.2d at 1122; Whitney v. Brown, 882 F.2d 1068, 1071 (6th Cir. 1989).*fn7

[22] II.

[23] In our previous opinion, we noted the use of the a/k/a alternative in other cases and by the parties before us on all of their legal papers. Salaam I,856 F.2d at 1123. We remanded this case for consideration of the a/k/a alternative, concluding that "[it] may be that the a/k/a designation is the sort of 'obvious, easy alternative' which the Supreme Court specifically has directed the courts to examine under the fourth prong of the Turner criteria." Id.

[24] A.

[25] On remand, Salaam explained the spiritual and practical significance of having the prison recognize his name change. In addition, he testified that he had not received mail sent to him under the name of Salaam. Tr. at 14, 24. He also indicated that he had been unable to cash money orders sent under that name. Tr. at 14. Salaam was most concerned that the prison recognize on his outer file jacket his new name and that he receive the normal incidents of recognition, including mail delivery and the cashing of money orders. Tr. at 50; id. at 28-29. Salaam testified that he could be called both names and that he would have no adverse reaction to the use of his former name, although he prefers his new name. Tr. at 20, 132. The inclusion of Salaam's new name on his clothing also would make it easier for his fellow inmates to call him by that name.

[26] The Director of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, A. L. Lockhart, testified on his own behalf. He explained that there was a main file or jacket maintained at each institution for the incarcerated individual, arranged alphabetically, as well as other subsidiary files maintained in different locations respecting each inmate. Tr. at 54-55. Lockhart indicated that all files and forms included the inmate's commitment number, and the same number appears together with the inmate's name on his clothing. Tr. at 60, 111. He indicated that the file jacket also currently includes the aliases of each inmate. Tr. at 56. Lockhart testified that he was not sure what the a/k/a alternative would entail in terms of changes but that he was opposed to it. Tr. at 60. He estimated that there could be as many as 400 or 450 Muslim inmates throughout Arkansas prisons. Tr. at 52 (also noting that the figure is disputed). We set forth his concerns with respect to each aspect of the case.

[27] Lockhart's primary reason for opposing the use of the a/k/a alternative on institutional files is his belief that all files would have to be changed and that it would be a burden to always write two names on any form. Tr. at 61-62, 71, 92-98; id. at 74 (no matter what relief was asked for, it would not "stop there"). In addition, he is concerned that adding a new name to files would cause confusion. For example, he argued that changing the prison record keeping would hurt the prison's ability to provide information to other law enforcement agencies during escapes or in reference to other inquiries. Tr. at 99. He is also concerned that inmates could be uncooperative if any paperwork they receive does not contain their new name. For example, he testified that he believed that if a parole order came in an inmate's former name, the inmate would refuse to leave prison. Tr. at 118. There was little testimony specific to mail delivery lists.