How Do I Know If An Inmate Has Been Released – Hubert Jason, a black Muslim incarcerated in a Virginia state prison, said in April he was praying when a guard came to his cell with a tray of dinner. As part of Ramadan, Jason fasted all day, fasting for over 14 hours. Attempting to complete the fourth of five daily prayers without interruption, Jason continued to pray for the next few minutes without answering the officer. As soon as he finished the prayer, he said that he had called the prison staff on the intercom and that he could now eat. According to Jason, the officers passing by Jason’s cell demanded that he refuse to eat. “I don’t think I’ll eat tonight,” said the voice on the intercom, and Jason. So it didn’t happen. His breakfast didn’t arrive until 3am the next morning.
Jason’s experience is similar to that of other Muslims incarcerated at Wallens Ridge, a maximum-security prison in Big Stone Gap, Virginia that holds about 1,000 inmates, and is now the subject of a lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Corrections that accuses the agency. Reject official complaints from Muslim prisoners about the difficulties they face in practicing their faith. Complaints by Muslim prisoners indicated that staff “prevented Muslim prisoners from participating in Ramadan,” the court said, “physical abuse, retaliation, housing prisoners in unsanitary conditions (including one Muslim prisoner deprived of normal use of toilets and showers), theft of religious books and articles, Frequent use of offensive and hateful language by VADOC staff against Muslim prisoners. “
How Do I Know If An Inmate Has Been Released
For many Muslim prisoners in Virginia and across the country, Ramadan means skipping years of not eating, being happy when food comes, and having religious items and key components of the faith. misunderstanding of the prison staff. In some cases, courts have found that such barriers violate federal law. A 2019 report on housing for Muslim inmates in state prisons by the national advocacy group Muslim Advocates found that despite the “large and growing Muslim incarceration, in turn, there is no provision for housing for Muslim inmates who face multiple barriers to basic housing.” for their religious services, festivals, funerals and religious dietary requirements. Public defenders want transparency about the barriers that incarcerated Muslims face in practicing their faith, and require prisons to fix those barriers; some progressive Muslims even called for the abolition of prisons.
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Jason, a Sunni Muslim reached by phone, said, “I don’t want every officer at Wallens Ridge to know about Ramadan or Islam, but I do ask that they respect my constitutional right to practice the religion of my choice.” and email in mid-April when placed in restrictive housing. Jason described his cell as “the size of an average bathroom, maybe smaller,” and said he was usually alone for about 24 hours a day, accessible only through the thin walls next to him or by yelling through the ventilation system. Talk to other prisoners. (Wallens Ridge restrictive housing is the subject of another lawsuit filed by the ACLU, which says it abuses solitary confinement. The Virginia Department of Corrections says it does not use “human solitary confinement” and allows all inmates in restrictive housing to spend at least four hours a day. the clock is off camera.)
Virginia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Kinney emphasized the importance of protecting the privacy of inmates in emailed comments. “Unless these types of records are exempt from public disclosure, the department should make them available to any requester, regardless of the entity seeking them and regardless of the purpose behind the request,” Kinney said.
Religious food issues are the most common housing issue raised by Muslim prisoners in federal lawsuits, according to Muslim advocates. These protests range from Ramadan foods to regular foods where halal options are not available year-round.
“They can bring you food at 3 o’clock in the morning, and then the next day at 5 o’clock in the morning,” said Shawn Wallace, another Muslim inmate at Warrens Ridge. During Ramadan, there are two important meals for Muslims: Sahar, which is eaten before dawn prayer, and Iftar, which is eaten after sunset. In order to fast, they cannot eat or pray from dawn to sunset. That is why inmates are very upset when the staff of the correctional facility does not deliver food on time. “If they don’t come (for morning prayers), I don’t eat,” Wallace said.
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Even when Muslim prisoners receive food, the charity given to them by the institution may not be enough to support ordinary people during the fasting period; According to Wallace and Jason, even though fasted prisoners did not eat lunch, their portions were comparable to those who did not eat. Any regular meal for fasting prisoners was the same.
Wallace described a recent meal as “some watered-down broth and then pieces of processed meat… you don’t know what it is — chicken, beef? You don’t even know if it’s halal. They’re just bringing it in.” eat this and say.”
It’s not just food, religious possessions and appearance can be a problem. According to Wallace, prison officials asked him to “trim his Muhammadan beard” and remove his kufi (religious headscarf) in public. “They said you can’t wear that here; it’s a wavy hat.” When Jason was first placed in restrictive housing last month, he said authorities took away his kufi and prayer mat. He said that he has been praying with a scarf since then.
Moreover, during Ramadan, it can be difficult to stay mentally fit when the prison guards are testing your patience. “They come into your cell and tear it to shreds – not looking for anything – knocking all your sanitary products on the floor to make you uncomfortable,” Wallace said. “Besides, we’re fasting and trying to stay calm, you know, so it’s a little harder to deal with this shit.”
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Asghar Goraya, president of Virginia Muslim Pontifical Services, a Virginia Department of Corrections subcontractor that works with state prisons, including Wallens Ridge, said some of the accusations by Muslim inmates have been made, particularly regarding food and receiving meals during Ramadan. . — approximately corresponds to the questions heard. “Based on my experience, I would say that it’s all true,” Golaya said. Less than two hours later, he heard reports that the prisoners were being fed during the month of Ramadan and that the Muslim prisoners were being given breakfast after sunrise.
Adnan Khan, who spent 16 years in a California county jail and three state prisons before being released in 2019, recalled that malnutrition was common during Ramadan. In some cases, his throat was even distorted. “I ate frozen brownies. Having worked in a kitchen before, I knew it wouldn’t happen unless there was some intention behind it,” Khan said.
“I can’t tell you how many Qurans were thrown under my bed,” said Khan. And then there’s the simple insult. “It’s just the language they use, isn’t it?” “Like ‘Muslim’, it’s normal,” Khan said.
While Khan blames corrections officers for harsh treatment, he says the real problem is systemic. “Impunity can be like a prison system’s best friend … people don’t use their phones to record abuse,” he said. “This is a system that allows abuse and continues to do so. No one can stop him.” Khan said he did not file a formal complaint because he feared reprisals and repercussions.
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Jason usually has some “tricks of the trade” to keep himself occupied during fasting, such as reading the Koran or listening to lectures on Islam. But even this can only go so far. Jason said he has fasted twice since living in a restricted home. “I hate to do it, but there are times when I have no choice because I can read a lot to take my mind off the hunger pangs,” she said.
Wallens Ridge declined to comment on Jason and Wallace’s individual cases, but noted that “any inmate who is dissatisfied with Ramadan’s stay at Wallens Ridge State Prison may, of course, file a lawsuit on their own behalf.”
Gay Gardner, senior counsel for the non-profit Interfaith Human Rights Organization, has received a flood of complaints detailing abuse and mistreatment by staff at the Muslim Detention Center at Wallens Ridge. So in April, he sued the Virginia Department of Corrections, with the help of Muslim lawyers, accusing the agency of refusing to share official complaints from Wallens Ridge Muslims about their faith and any hostile behavior.
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