Muslim inmates at two Virginia prisons face discriminatory treatment during Ramadan, denied timely food delivery and drinkable water.
Rabat – In one of the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) facilities in the American state of Virginia, Muslim inmates are faced with restrictions on food during the month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is a holy month when Muslims partake of food, drink, sex, or any behavior that could be harmful to the mind, body, and soul.
A joint letter written on Friday, May 24, by the civil rights advocacy groups Muslim Advocates, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), and Virginia Prison Justice Network (VAPJN), described the conditions of Muslim inmates as “unlawful” and clearly in violation of the US constitution.
Unlike non-Muslim inmates at Red Onion prison in Pound, Virginia, Muslim inmates do not receive their suhoor (pre-dawn meal) before their fast begins, while others at the River North in Independence, Virginia, are provided with their iftar (evening fast-breaking) meal only after one hour or more after sundown. They are also denied access to drinkable water during non-fasting hours.
The letter emphasis the discrimination against Muslims, noting that access to potable water for other inmates is not restricted during the same non-fasting hours of Muslims.
It added that the Virginia Department of Corrections “has systematically burdened the religious exercise of Muslim inmates during Ramadan…and subjected them to unlawful and inhumane conditions.”
The groups wrote in the letter that the ill-treatment of Muslim inmates “not only jeopardizes” their health but also “violates their well-established rights
under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.”
The groups call on the prison department to make sure Muslim inmates observe their Ramadan fast unburdened, and that prison staff receives training regarding Ramadan practices “to increase oversight of facilities’ meal delivery.”