Judge orders Washington state to provide Ramadan meals to Muslim inmates

Judge orders Washington state to provide Ramadan meals to Muslim inmates
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A federal judge on Monday ordered Washington state prisons to provide nighttime meals to Muslim inmates observing Ramadan, according to The Associated Press.

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit from the Muslim advocacy group the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which accused the state’s corrections department of violating inmates’ constitutional rights.

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The lawsuit, filed on behalf of four Muslim inmates, said that the Monroe Correctional Complex’s Ramadan meal policy was insufficient. According to the lawsuit, the prison requires inmates to register by the end of January if they want to be on the list for Ramadan meals.

Some inmates observing Ramadan, including those who entered the prison after the deadline, were not being given nighttime meals. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit reportedly lost an average of 20 pounds each during Ramadan, which requires that Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

“Muslim inmates have been starved and their health is in danger as a result of the Monroe Correctional Complex’s shameful starvation policy,” said Lena Masri, the national litigation director for CAIR.

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“We welcome the federal court’s swift intervention, which will bring this health crisis to an end and ensure that Muslim inmates are not starved and brutalized for practicing the fundamental principles of their faith,” she said in a release.

One inmate said that guards threatened to force-feed him before he was added to the Ramadan meal list. 

U.S. Judge Ronald Leighton said in his ruling that the corrections department was violating inmates’ constitutional rights to free exercise of religion and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

A spokesman for the corrections department told the AP in an email that the department was “immediately responsive” to Leighton’s order.

“The Washington Department of Corrections takes very seriously the health and welfare of those sentenced to incarceration in the state’s correctional facilities,” the spokesman said.

The ruling comes weeks after a federal judge made a similar decision in Alaska. CAIR sued the Alaska prison system, accusing the state of giving Ramadan meals containing pork and insufficient calories to Muslim inmates.