Wyo. Lawsuit Alleges Prison Mealtime Violates Muslim Inmates' Freedom of Religion
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday claiming that a Wyoming State Penitentiary policy restricting prisoners' mealtimes violates the constitutional rights of two Muslim inmates.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of Joseph Miller and Hurie Purdiman Jr., two inmates serving time at the penitentiary in Rawlins.
At issue is an alleged "20-minute rule" requiring inmates to eat their meals within 20 minutes after the food is delivered to a cell or common dining area, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit seeks for the inmates to be exempted from the rule because it forces them to choose between eating and practicing their religion.
Miller and Purdiman claim that meals have arrived at the same time of day that they're practicing prayers according to their Muslim faith. On other occasions, meals arrived during a period of religious fasting and then were confiscated before the fast ended at sunset.
"If someone has started their prayer, unless they're willing to interrupt their prayer and leave at that moment, they forgo their meal because (the guards) won't go back and open their cell doors," said Jennifer Horvath, staff attorney for Wyoming Chapter of the ACLU. "It's not unreasonable to ask for some extra time to finish their meals. They have a right to practice their religion, and the prison has been treating it as a privilege."
1) Wyo. Lawsuit Alleges Prison Mealtime Violates Muslim Inmates' Freedom of Religion