Agreement on religious accommodations for Muslim inmates reached

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Alaska Department of Corrections today (September 6th, 2019) announced that they have reached an agreement to resolve a federal case regarding Alaska’s religious accommodations for Muslim inmates.

Represented by the CAIR Legal Defense Fund, Plaintiffs Anas Dowl and Ernest Jacobsson filed a lawsuit and sought emergency relief on May 22, 2018, alleging that the Alaska Department of Corrections was failing to provide Muslim inmates with sufficient nutrition during Ramadan 2018.

The Plaintiffs later added claims regarding the DOC’s policies surrounding Muslims gathering for religious worship, including daily prayers and Friday Jummah services.

Pursuant to the terms of the Settlement, the Alaska Department of Corrections have agreed to change several polices affecting Muslim inmates. Starting with Ramadan 2019, fasting inmates in all facilities statewide are provided with 3,000 nutritionally-balanced calories daily, including two hot meals.

Meals provided to Muslim inmates are logged to ensure their contents and timeliness of delivery during religious-permissible times during Ramadan. No meals contain pork products, and inmates will be provided with nutrition labels (such as for turkey bologna) to confirm those contents.

With respect to religious services, the Alaska Department of Corrections now permits Muslim inmates to congregate in their housing mods to offer their five daily salats together. They may also congregate for Friday Jummah services. Muslim inmates are permitted to facilitate these services themselves, even when no outside religious volunteer is present.

The settlement also provides for a payment of $102,500 to cover damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees.

“We appreciate that the Alaska Department of Corrections responded to our Complaint promptly and with the seriousness Mr. Dowl and Mr. Jacobbson’s allegations deserved,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri. “The policy changes Alaska has now implemented are a model for correctional institutions across the country in accommodating the religious practices of Muslim inmates.”

“The State of Alaska’s Department of Corrections accommodates more than thirty different religious groups inside of our facilities, including those who identify as Muslim. As a Department, we are committed to providing religious as well as cultural opportunities for offenders within available resources, while maintaining facility security, safety, health and orderly operations,” said DOC Standards Administrator, Jeremy Hough.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.