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National Islamic Organization Sues Maryland Jail For Allegedly Discriminating Against Muslims

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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The Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a lawsuit on behalf of six Muslim inmates, alleging that a Maryland prison system’s restrictions unfairly target Muslims.

CAIR filed the lawsuit Thursday, alleging that the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections system prevents Muslim inmates from practicing their faith to a greater degree than it restricts inmates of other faiths. Representatives of CAIR said that the corrections system prevented Muslim inmates from gathering for jummah, or congregational prayers, while allowing Jewish and Christian inmates to gather for their own services.

“Prince George’s County has not only violated the rights of Muslim inmates, but has also treated Muslims differently than inmates of other faiths,” CAIR’s litigation director Lena Masri said in a press release.

The complaint lists inmates Kenneth Snowden; David Francis; Kevin Stewart; Darnell Munden; Duran Carrington; and Michael Harris as plaintiffs. They allege that Prince George’s County implemented a “Muslim Religious Services Policy” that restricts inmates from gathering not only for jummah, but also for their Friday religious services, which devout Muslims regularly observe at their local mosque.

Yolanda Smedley, a public information officer with PGC Department of Corrections, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the department does not have any such policy and that they would not make a policy specific to any one religion.

“We don’t specify any religion,” Smedley told TheDCNF.

“We do allow inmates to practice their religion. … Our policy does not prevent them from practicing their religion. But keep in mind that for the safety and security of our inmates and employees we do have guidelines on how they can gather,” she added.

CAIR filed the complaint not only against PGC Department of Corrections, but also against an “unidentified chaplain” who they allege has supervisory control over responses to inmates’ requests for religious services and gatherings. That chaplain would be Rev. James E. Penn of Good News Jail & Prison Ministry who has served as head chaplain for PGC Department of Corrections since 1989.

Smedley told TheDCNF that department personnel and Penn could not yet comment directly on the lawsuit as their attorneys had not yet read or studied it. PGC Department of Corrections will issue a statement concerning CAIR’s complaint in the coming week.

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