[Pnews] New study - US disproportionately imprisons Muslims—and then violates their religious freedoms

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 30 16:21:21 EDT 2019


  Many U.S. Prisons Deny Muslim Inmates Halal Food and Proper Prayer

    A new study finds that the U.S. disproportionately imprisons
    Muslims—and then violates their religious freedoms.

by Leila Ettachfini - 
<https://www.vice.com/en_us/contributor/leila-ettachfini> July 26 2019

A new report 
on Muslim prisoners from civil rights organization Muslim Advocates has 
revealed alarming truths about Muslim experiences in U.S. prisons.

Among other things, the report found that Muslims are significantly 
overrepresented in American prisons. Despite making up only 1 percent of 
the U.S. population, Muslims make up about 9 percent of the U.S. prison 
population. In some states, including Maryland, New Jersey, and 
Pennsylvania, that number is higher than 20 percent.

“We don’t know for certain why there are so many, or why the numbers are 
growing,” said Yusuf Saei, a Muslim Advocates legal fellow and the 
study’s main author. “Possible factors are the growth of the Muslim 
population in the U.S. generally, increased surveillance, harsher 
sentencing, and enforcement for Muslim communities, as well as 
conversions in prison.”

These findings are not entirely shocking to those familiar with how law 
enforcement and the criminal justice system have targeted Muslims since 
September 2001. According to the ACLU, the NYPD launched an entire 
Muslim Surveillance Program 
the following year, which involved infiltrating mosques and stationing 
police in neighborhoods with “ancestries of interest.” And Black Muslims 
in particular have been targeted 
by both government surveillance and the police state since America’s 

The study also looked into the ways that Muslims are treated within 
prisons across the country finding that “numerous muslim prisoners face 
obstacles to practicing faith.” Muslim Advocates found that the most 
commonly reported form of discrimination against Muslim prisoners 
involved prisons’ refusal to comply with Muslim dietary restrictions. 
Out of 163 Muslim prisoner cases that were brought to federal court and 
evaluated in the study, nearly 40 percent involved food. The study’s 
findings come after a report 
last year that a prison in Alaska was purposely starving Muslim 
prisoners during Ramadan by giving them pork sandwiches and not 
providing them with enough calories to sustain themselves while fasting.

Muslim Advocates also found that incarcerated Muslims were regularly 
denied requests to observe Eid al-Fitr, while Christian holiday requests 
were routinely approved.

The study also found that many Muslim prisoners experience obstacles to 
prayer and worship, often due to intentional and discriminatory 
practices on behalf of prisons and guards. In one cited case, Muslim 
prisoners were forced to pray outside, often in extreme weather 
conditions, and, in another, Muslims were banned from praying inside 
their cells. The study also noted two prisoners who were once limited to 
one religious service per week as a form of punishment.

While Muslim Advocates encountered numerous prisons with harmful 
practices that often violated the right to religious freedom, they also 
noted that “there are many ‘less restrictive’ and even fully 
accommodating prison policies that successfully facilitate Muslim 
practices around prayer, diet, and dress, without compromising 
compelling government interests in safety.”

“As civil rights lawyers, our takeaway is that many state prisons are 
failing to respond to the needs of this significant population of 
Muslims,” said Saei. “It is simply unreasonable for so many state 
prisons to deny these people basic necessities [...] particularly when 
other prisons are already doing this with ease.”

To conclude the study, Muslim Advocates included a list of best 
practices recommendations for state departments of corrections, pointing 
out that Muslim overrepresentation in prisons should be enough of an 
incentive to implement the suggestions nationally. The suggestions 
include allowing Muslims to adjust their work hours during Ramadan, 
training guards on how to conduct respectful searches of religious 
property, and allowing head coverings throughout their facilities.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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