Seventeen Muslim inmates in Florida say they’ve complained to jail officials that they haven’t been fed halal meals, to no avail. Now, two civil rights groups are putting the Miami-Dade County jails on notice – feed the inmates meals that are in accordance with Islamic law or face legal action, according to a report from WPLG Local 10 News.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida said Wednesday that they’re prepared to file formal grievances against the jail. They've received more than 35 complaints from inmates serving time in Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department facilities since last fall.
"Individuals do not lose their constitutional rights just because they are behind bars," said Shalini Goel Agarwal, a staff attorney at the ACLU's Florida office. "When a particular diet is part of an inmate's religious practice, jails need to respect that, especially when they already do so for inmates other faiths."
Jail officials started serving non-halal meals to the Muslim inmates in October 2014. It has continued into this year’s holy month of Ramadan, when all adult Muslims are required to fast from dawn to sunset, unless they are suffering from an illness, traveling, or pregnant, among other exceptions.
Under Islamic law, a halal diet prohibits Muslims from consuming the meat of certain animals. That food must not come into contact with other non-halal meals, according to WPLG’s report.
CAIR and the ACLU said Miami-Dade jail officials are violating their own faith-based meals policy, which has not been violated for inmates of other faiths. When the groups informed the jail of the complaint, officials made no changes. But the jail has denied the allegation.
"There has been no change in religious meals for Muslims incarcerated during the month of Ramadan," Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department spokeswoman Janelle Hall told WPLG.