Negotiations result in victory for Muslim inmates who wish to attend prayer services
Los Angeles — The ACLU Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) and the firm of Irell & Manella applaud the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for its decision to issue a new directive today that guarantees Muslim inmates have access to congregational prayer.
“Muslim inmates who wish to participate in group worship services will not be targeted for discriminatory treatment, nor will they be overlooked,” said Tristan Favro, attorney for Irell & Manella. “The Sheriff’s Department is affirming its commitment in writing that Muslim inmates, like all other inmates, can exercise their religion.”
The new directive comes in response to a letter from ACLU SoCal challenging policies that unfairly prevented Muslim inmates from attending group worship. Muslims reported being denied access to Jumu’ah services, a weekly congregational prayer which takes place every Friday, while inmates from other religions were allowed to leave their housing units to attend religious services. Last year, ACLU SoCal and more than 30 religious leaders from different faith communities wrote then-Sheriff Lee Baca expressing the same concerns.
The new guidelines reaffirm the legal right of all inmates to attend prayer services.
“The Sheriff Department’s response to these concerns this year represents impressive progress toward ensuring freedom of religious exercise in the jail,” said Jessica Price, attorney for ACLU SoCal. “The directive makes clear that access to religion is not a courtesy; it is a right, for all inmates.”
Download ACLU SoCal's demand letters to LASD (.pdf)
See ACLU SoCal video with testimonies by a former L.A. County Jail inmate and concerned faith leaders: https://www.aclusocal.org/right2pray