Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

BOP Agrees to Provide Wine to Prisoner for Religious Rituals

On September 18, 2008, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) settled a lawsuit brought under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) for wine during various religious rituals.
Brandon Sample, a federal prisoner and PLN contributing writer, sued the BOP under RFRA after he was denied the use of wine during his Sabbath and Passover rituals.
Sample, a practicing Jew, claimed that the BOP’s refusal to provide him with at least three ounces of Kedem Concord Kal, a low-alcohol content red wine, every Friday night and Saturday morning for the ritual of Kiddush, the sanctification blessing over the Sabbath, and four cups of at least three ounces of wine during the annual Passover seders violated RFRA.

After a round of summary judgment motions and two published opinions by the district court finding that (1) Sample’s beliefs were sincere; (2) the BOP’s refusal to provide the wine substantially burdened Sample’s beliefs; and (3) the BOP had a compelling governmental interest – in the form of maintaining security – for not providing the wine, the parties began discovery to flesh out the remaining question in the case: whether the BOP’s outright denial of Sample’s request constituted the least restrictive means.

Discovery was extensive. Sample took depositions of both high and low ranking BOP officials, obtained hundreds of documents, propounded numerous interrogatories and request for admission, and was deposed himself. Throughout discovery, BOP continued to insist that the amount of wine Sample sought was too much. BOP claimed quite ridiculously, for instance, that Sample might get drunk from consuming the wine he sought which, by volume, had a mere 3.5% alcohol.

However, following the close of discovery, the parties reached a compromise. BOP would provide Sample with non-alcoholic red wine for his rituals, challah bread each week for the Sabbath, and purchase $500 worth of materials related to Judaism in return for Sample dismissing the suit. Non-alcoholic wine looks, smells, and tastes like wine, but only has half of one percent of alcohol after the alcohol is removed through a filtration process.

While the settlement in Sample’s case applies only to Sample, it sets the stage for the provision of non-alcoholic wine or beer to other prisoners who use alcohol in their religious rituals given BOP’s admission during discovery that non-alcoholic wine does not present a security problem for the institution as it does not induce drunkenness or alcohol abuse due to its low alcohol content. Sample was ably represented by Adam Nadelhalf of Winston and Strawn, LLP. See: Sample v. Lappin, No. 05-596 (D.D.C.) (PLF); Sample v. Lappin, 479 F.Supp.2d 120 (D.D.C.); Sample v. Lappin, 424 F.Supp.2d 187 (D.D.C.). The settlement is available on PLN’s website.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal cases

Sample v. Lappin

Sample v. Lappin

Sample v. Lappin