An attempt to compel religious services for Orange County Jail inmates in protective custody failed Monday as a federal judge refused to issue a temporary restraining order, but he ordered county officials to explain why they should be denied religious services.
U.S. District Judge James Selna denied a temporary restraining order in a sweeping federal lawsuit seeking class status among the county’s jail inmates, some of whom claim they are kept in disciplinary isolation and are unable to attend religious services.
However, Selna also ordered that the county and Sheriff Don Barnes explain “why they should not be ordered to provide all present and future prisoners in the Orange County jail with religious access, consisting of weekly group chapel services, 20 minutes individually in a suitable chapel, or to meet with a minister, priest, rabbi, imam or other similar religious advisors at any time and to bring the prisoner to that visit within 20 minutes.”
The preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for May 13.
The lawsuit, which seeks $500 million, alleges numerous civil rights violations, including improperly monitored inmate phone calls, a death of an inmate’s newborn last May “due to lack of medical care,” and the use of disciplinary isolation and its effect on the mental health of inmates.
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