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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Thomas H. Baranowski, an inmate incarcerated in the Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), sued employees and officials of the TDCJ, under 42 U.S.C. �1983, including: Larry Hart, Huntsville Unit chaplain; Lawrence Hodges, Huntsville Unit warden; Ted Sanders, rabbi for the TDCJ; Bill Pierce, director of the TDCJ Chaplaincy Department; and Douglas Dretke, former director of the TDCJ (collectively, defendants). Baranowski sought declaratory and injunctive relief for alleged violations of the First Amendment, the 14th Amendment, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. �2000cc-1 et seq. Baranowski, a member of the Jewish faith, alleged that the defendants denied Jewish prisoners access to Sabbath services while depriving them of worship, fellowship, holiday services, meals and observances, and finally discriminating against Jewish prisoners and favoring other faith groups in regard to chapel services, worship and rehabilitation. More specifically, Baranowski asserted that the defendants had deprived him and other Jewish inmates of access to Friday Sabbath services in September and October 2003 and High Holy Day services, had deprived him and other Jewish inmates of access to the Huntsville Unit chapel for their religious observances, and had failed to provide kosher diets conforming with the dietary laws of Judaism. Baranowski also claimed that prisoners of other religious faiths were treated more favorably than Jewish prisoners, citing limited religious services and chapel access for Jewish prisoners. The defendants moved for summary judgment, filing copies of various prison policies and sworn affidavits in support. In his affidavit, Pierce testified that “TDCJ allows all offenders to worship according to their faith preference in their cell[s] using allowed items such as sacred texts, devotional items, and materials.” According to Pierce, TDCJ policy is to allow inmates as much freedom and opportunity as possible for pursuing their individual beliefs and practices, consistent with agency security, safety, order and rehabilitation concerns. Pierce explained that religious services are provided based on demand, need, and resources. Pierce stated that of the 145,000 offenders currently confined in TDCJ, only 900 are self described as Jewish. Of those, only 70 to 75 are recognized as actually practicing their faith, with 90 in the conversion process. According to Pierce, these numbers are very small when compared to the number of observant Protestants, Catholics and Muslims. Pierce also stated that although Jewish programs and activities are not available at every unit, they are available at the Huntsville Unit, which is one of seven Jewish “host” units within the TDCJ. According to Pierce, “[b]ecause of the small number of inmates who actually practice Judaism and attend Jewish services, as well as the limited availability of rabbis in certain geographical areas of the state, TDCJ is unable to hold Jewish services at every Jewish host unit on a weekly basis.” Pierce testified that services are held at least monthly at each of the Jewish host units. Pierce also testified about the numerous requests that TDCJ receives from inmates for special diets for religious reasons. He explained that if TDCJ “were to grant one inmate’s request for a special diet or religious item, numerous inmates would request similar special privileges.” TDCJ studied the impact of complying with such a request and determined that it would be far too costly and would far exceed the allotted budget to provide kosher food. Several units would have to remodel their kitchens and substantially alter food preparation procedures. Kosher meals also are very costly. The state of Florida has reported that it costs them between $12 and $15 per day per offender to provide kosher meals compared with $2.46 per day the state of Texas pays for offender meals. Pierce testified that as an alternative to kosher meals, “all inmates may choose to be served a pork-free diet or a vegetarian diet.” In addition, Jewish inmates may receive kosher items from the Aleph Institute, a not-for-profit organization, at no cost to the state of Texas. The district court granted summary judgment and entered a judgment dismissing the complaint with prejudice. The district court held that the summary judgment evidence showed that restrictions on Baranowski’s religious observances were justified by valid penological interests related to prison staffing, space limitations and the financial burden of accommodating Baranowski’s requests. The district court concluded that Baranowski had not shown that the defendants purposefully discriminated against him or treated similarly situated individuals differently. The district court also held that Baranowski had failed to present prima facie evidence that the defendants substantially burdened his religious practices under RLUIPA. The district court concluded that even assuming Baranowski established a substantial burden on his religious observance, the defendants’ financial, safety, space and security concerns for the prison, its inmates, and employees and the goal of maintaining a neutral policy of religious accommodation for all recognized religious faiths, were compelling governmental interests. Baranowski appealed. HOLDING:Affirmed. Baranowski, the court stated, argued that the defendants impeded his free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. Under the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision Turner v. Safley, a prison regulation that impinges on an inmate’s constitutional rights is valid if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. Turner, the court stated, requires the court to consider four factors: 1. whether a valid and rational connection exists between the prison regulation and the legitimate governmental interest put forward to justify it; 2. whether there are alternative means of exercising the right that remain open to prison inmates; 3. the impact of the accommodation on prison guards, other inmates and the allocation of prison resources generally; and 4. whether there are “ready alternatives” to the regulation in question. Turning to the Turner factors, the court held that the TDCJ policies on the availability of religious services and use of the chapel passed constitutional muster. The record, the court stated, demonstrated that the prison policies at issue were logically connected to legitimate penological concerns of security, staff and space limitations, and that there were no obvious or easy alternatives. The court then examined Baranowski’s complaint that the defendants violated his equal protection rights by favoring other religions over Judaism. But the court found that Baranowski failed to present any evidence to support this complaint, in light of controlling law that a “special chapel or place of worship need not be provided for every faith regardless of size; nor must a chaplain, priest, or minister be provided without regard to the extent of the demand.” Finally, Baranowski argued that his inability to observe Sabbath and other holy day services, and consume kosher meals, substantially burdened his ability to practice Judaism, in violation of RLUIPA. But the court found that TDCJ did not prevent Baranowski from congregating for Jewish services; rather, a dearth clergy and authorized volunteers hampered efforts to hold Jewish services more frequently than once a month. The court also found that TDCJ’s policy against serving kosher food was related to maintaining good order and controlling costs and thus involved compelling governmental interests. OPINION:Prado, J.; Higginbotham, Wiener and Prado, J.J.

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