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Bureau of Prisons denies social justice job offer for activist Timothy DeChristopher

SALT LAKE CITY — Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher had been offered a new job with the local First Unitarian Church's social justice efforts when the Federal Bureau of Prisons stepped in.

Instead, he'll work at a bookstore.

The former University of Utah economics student served more than 15 months in prison before being admitted to a halfway house in Salt Lake City at the end of October as part of his two-year sentence. Part of that change includes being able to work despite the suspension of DeChristopher's Constitutional rights, his attorney Patrick Shea said.

DeChristopher had been offered a job with the church's social justice ministry, which would include working with cases of race discrimination, sex discrimination or other injustices that fall contrary to Unitarian beliefs.

"The Bureau of Prisons official who interviewed Tim indicated he would not be allowed to work at the Unitarian church because it involved social justice and that was what part of what his crime was," Shea said.

Ken Sanders, proprietor of a downtown rare books store, instead offered DeChristopher a job as a clerk. That employment has been deemed "safe," Shea confirmed.

DeChristopher is eligible to be released on parole come April and could possibly move to home supervision in February, Shea said.

"You don't have the same freedom that you have as a regular citizen, but it's certainly better than being confined to a cell or being under a restricted program like he is in the halfway house," Shea said.

Shea maintains that his client didn't cause physical damage, levy threats or cause money to be lost when he bid on and won $1.8 million worth of land parcels in a 2008 Bureau of Land Management auction as a form of protest.

McKenzie Romero

Twitter: @McKenzieRomero