January 9, 2014
Piper Rountree's murder case made national headlines when she was sentenced to life in prison for murdering her estranged husband, Fredric Jablin, a professor at the University of Richmond, in 2005. Rountree is currently serving her sentence at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Fluvanna County and has filed a federal lawsuit against the prison and its top officials.
"At the heart of this suit is a shocking pattern of religious abuse," Rountree wrote in a letter to CBS19's Rachel Ryan from her prison cell at FCCW.
In her letters, Rountree claims she needs to go to bed at 7:00 pm, in order to wake up up at 2:00 am to begin her religious meditations. She writes for the past several years, FCCW prison officials have allowed her to collect her mail when she wakes up. But recently, officials have informed her that she must collect her mail at 10:00 pm, with the rest of the inmates. In her lawsuit, Rountree alleges exceptions are made for kitchen workers at the prison who rise at similarly early hours to get their mail.
"For the last nine years I've been allowed to get my mail at 2:30, when I wake. Now my unit manager has said she will accommodate kitchen workers or others who 'legitimately need to get up at 2:30 for work' because they need their eight hours of sleep, whereas those of us dedicated to larger goals do not," Rountree writes. "This is discriminatory." Rountree says the lack of sleep has caused her to suffer migraines and other fatigue-related illnesses.
Rountree's lawsuit accuses 12 defendants, including the director of the Virginia Department of Corrections, of religious harassment.