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BOP's Motion to Dismiss Religious Discrimination Case Denied

A North Carolina District Court has denied the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) motion to dismiss prisoners Lascelles Somie and Oral Malcolm's complaint alleging that the BOP failed to permit them to exercise their Twelve-Tribe Rastafarian religion. The plaintiffs had claimed that their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) had been violated.

The other defendant, GEO group, a private prison contractor of the BOP operating Rivers Correctional Facility (Rivers), also filed a motion to dismiss, based upon the argument that GEO could not be liable for alleged First Amendment violations. Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko 534 U.S. 61 (2001).

The plaintiffs had alleged that while GEO operated the Rivers facility under the aegis of the BOP, their religious dietary needs were not being met. GEO argued that the RFRA action would not lie because it was a private corporation, citing Holly v. Scott, 434 F3d 287 (2006). The court accepted these arguments and dismissed GEO as a party defendant.

The plaintiffs, however, and also alleged that the "BOP had knowledge of ...plaintiffs' specific grievance against GEO regarding ... the religious diet program," and thereby plaintiffs were permitted to amend their complaint: The BOP motion to dismiss was denied, and the case against them was allowed to continue.

See: Somie v. The GEO Group, Inc., 5:09-CT-3142-FL, (U.S.D.C., E.D.N.C., Western Division (2011).

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Related legal case

Somie v. The GEO Group, Inc.