Returned to prison for refusing to participate in faith-based drug treatment program
McClatchy-Tribune reports that a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a jury should award Barry A. Hazle Jr. compensatory damages for his loss of freedom and could also consider possible punitive and emotional distress damages. The panel ordered the trial court judge in Sacramento to reconsider whether to issue an injunction to prevent California officials from requiring parolees to attend treatment programs that emphasize God or a “higher power.”
Barry A. Hazle, Jr., a drug offender parolee, was ordered by parole authorities to spend 90 days in a 12-step drug treatment program. He informed his parole agent that he was an atheist and requested a non-religious affiliated treatment program. He was told none were available and that he had to enter the 12-step facility. He complied, but the staff reported that he refused to participate and was disruptive “in a congenial way.” His parole agent rolled him up. After he spent 100 days back in prison, he sued.
A federal judge in Sacramento had ruled that Hazle’s constitutional rights had been clearly violated and ordered a jury to compensate him. However, the jury refused to award Hazle any monetary damages. He appealed. The 9th Circuit panel sent the case back to the trial court, ruling that: “”Given the indisputable fact of actual injury resulting from Hazle's unconstitutional imprisonment, and the district judge's finding that the state defendants were liable for that injury, an award of compensatory damages was mandatory.” A new jury will have to be impaneled to award Hazle monetary damages.