During Ramadan, a state prison made sure to provide two Muslim inmates with special halal meals after they completed their fasting each day. However, the inmates sued because the meals were unsatisfactory. The prison agreed to a settlement of $102,500.
While serving out their sentences, Anas Dowl and Ernest Jacobsson informed the Alaska Department of Corrections that they require meals at sundown and before sunrise each day. To accommodate their Ramadan fasting, the pair insisted upon separately prepared halal food, which had to be served apart from the other prisoners’ mealtimes.
For most criminals, the cell is where the comforts and privileges of civilization end. However, for some people, it’s an opportunity to demand special treatment and accommodation. If the service isn’t up to your standards, you can always threaten a massive civil lawsuit.
The prison acquiesced, serving them carefully prepared meals within the appropriate window of time. Most of the meals included a beverage, fruit, vegetable, meat, and dessert. Instead of expressing gratitude, the Muslim inmates decided to sue after finding fault with the meals.
After filing a lawsuit citing religious discrimination and inhumane treatment, Anas Dowl and Ernest Jacobsson will receive $102,500 because they claimed that the prison’s Ramadan meals were “dangerously meager” and that they were “being starved,” according to Anchorage Daily News. The Alaska Department of Law and the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reached the settlement along with several changes in the way the prison allows inmates to pray. CAIR will also be providing “religious sensitivity training” to prison employees.
“Accommodating Muslim prisoners in prisons around the country has been a perennial problem,” said CAIR trial attorney Carolyn Homer, but the new agreement with the state “is one of the comprehensive accommodation provisions that CAIR has ever seen, and we intend to hold it up as a model for how Muslim inmates can be accommodated.”
Like many Muslims, Dowl and Jacobsson were scheduled to fast from sunrise to sunset during the nearly 30 days of Ramadan, requiring the prison to provide them with meals outside of the regularly scheduled dining hours. The lawsuit argued that the meals they were given were not enough to sustain them for the entire day and were literally starving them.
The lawsuit alleged that the Muslim inmates were served bologna sandwiches, which contained pork that is forbidden in Islam. However, the DOC pointed out that the deli meat was halal turkey bologna, ensuring that the prisoners’ religious rights were never violated.
The settlement includes the stipulation that Muslim prisoners be allowed to “congregate for each of the give daily prayers” and “facilitate Friday religious services.” They will also be permitted to “participate in Islamic study groups,” although it is unclear how often they will be allowed to assemble.
Both CAIR attorney Carolyn Homer and DOC public information officer Sarah Gallagher expressed satisfaction with the settlement. They hope that the judgment will set a precedent for prisons across the nation when it comes to accommodating Muslim wards.
“CAIR has been pleased that the Alaska Department of Corrections took this case seriously from the very beginning and made immediate changes,” Homer said.
With all the special privileges that the settlement affords, it acts as an incentive for inmates to convert to Islam. Of course, we’re already seeing this trend as Muslim conversion in prison is on the rise.
The lawsuit signals to prisoners that they can force the hand of the state by threatening to go forward with an expensive, time-consuming lawsuit if they don’t settle. Sadly, it is the taxpayers who suffer the outcomes regardless of the ruling.