Argued: October 31, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Virginia, at Roanoke. James P. Jones, District
Mark Greenfield, NORTHWESTERN PRITZKER SCHOOL OF LAW,
Chicago, Illinois, for Appellant.
Jay Heytens, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF VIRGINIA,
Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee.
M. Shapiro, Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center,
NORTHWESTERN PRITZKER SCHOOL OF LAW, Chicago, Illinois, for
Appellant. Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, Victoria N.
Pearson, Deputy Attorney General, Laura H. Cahill, Assistant
Attorney Counsel, Matthew R. McGuire, Principal Deputy
Solicitor General, Michelle S. Kallen, Deputy Solicitor
General, Brittany M. Jones, John Marshall Fellow, OFFICE OF
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for
Elizabeth Hagerty, Claudia Pare, Washington, D.C., Allen P.
Pegg, HOGAN LOVELLS U.S. LLP, Miami, Florida, for Amici
Former Corrections Officials Dan Pacholke, Jeanne Woodford,
Phil Stanley, Dick Morgan, and Eldon Vail. Michael P. Doss,
SIDLEY AUSTIN LLP, Chicago, Illinois, for Amici Professors
and Practitioners of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Medicine.
Johnathan J. Smith, Sirine Shebaya, Matthew W. Callahan,
MUSLIM ADVOCATES, Washington, D.C., for Amici Muslim
Advocates, The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, and
Interfaith Alliance Foundation.
NIEMEYER and AGEE, Circuit Judges, and Thomas S. KLEEH,
United States District Judge for the Northern District of
West Virginia, sitting by designation.
NIEMEYER, Circuit Judge.
pro se, Alfonza Greenhill, an inmate at Red Onion
State Prison in Pound, Virginia, commenced this action
against officials of the Virginia Department of Corrections
(the "VDOC") under the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") and the
Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, alleging that
the VDOC was denying him the ability to practice central
tenets of his Muslim religion. Specifically, he alleged that
the VDOC had denied his request to participate, directly or
by television, in a Friday prayer service known as Jum'ah
and interfered with his ability to maintain a beard of
approximately four inches in length. The VDOC justified its
actions with respect to Jum'ah services by noting that
Greenhill is committed to restrictive housing because of an
extensive record of disciplinary infractions, and therefore,
as a matter of policy, he is denied the "privilege"
of television access. It also acknowledged that Greenhill has
been unwilling to participate in its "Step-Down
Program," which is designed to encourage him to earn a
reduction in restrictions and through which he could earn
access to a television, allowing him to participate in
Jum'ah every Friday through the prison's
closed-circuit broadcast. With respect to the length of
Greenhill's beard, the VDOC defended its grooming policy
as necessary to promote safety, security, and sanitation.
Recently, however, it adopted a new grooming policy that
supplants the policy Greenhill challenged in the district
district court accepted the VDOC's justification for
denying Greenhill television access and found that its
then-existing grooming policy did not substantially burden
Greenhill's religious exercise. Accordingly, it granted
summary judgment to the VDOC.
we find the VDOC's stated justifications for denying
Greenhill access to Jum'ah and interfering with his
ability to maintain a four-inch beard invalid under both
RLUIPA and the First Amendment, we vacate the district
court's judgment and remand for further proceedings.
is serving a 15-year sentence for committing various crimes,
including assault, robbery, and the illegal use of a firearm,
and he is currently incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison.
Because of numerous and ongoing disciplinary violations,
Greenhill has been classified as a Security Level S inmate -
a classification given to inmates with a "pattern of
excessive violent disciplinary charges reflecting inability
to adjust to a lower level of supervision." Accordingly,
he is segregated from the general prison population. The VDOC
operates a "Step-Down Program," which incentivizes
inmates to transition to less restrictive security levels by
offering increasingly greater privileges for good behavior,
but Greenhill has refused to participate in the Program. As a
result of his refusal, as well as additional disciplinary
issues, Greenhill has been assigned to Special
Management-Zero ("SM-0") status, which, as the
Program's most restrictive level, relegates inmates to
what amounts to solitary confinement and imposes the greatest
limitations on their activities.
SM-0 inmate, Greenhill is confined alone to a small cell with
limited daily exercise time and restricted contacts with
others. Under VDOC policies, he is not eligible to hold a
job, participate in group activities, or keep a personal
television in his cell. To advance to less restrictive levels
under the Step-Down Program, Greenhill would have to
"(i) [e]liminate disciplinary infractions[;] (ii) [m]eet
a set of responsible behavior goals[; and] (iii)
[p]articipate in ...