Smith state Prison Officials Discriminate Against Muslim Prisoners
By Abdus-Salam Karim, Prisonersolidarity.org
April 16, 2007
At Smith State Prison (SSP), in Georgia, a memorandum was posted prohibiting group gatherings in the common area (dayroom/dormitory), wherein Muslim prisoners would no longer be allowed to enjoy making congregational prayer, and are now only allowed to pray in their respective cells. Prior to this memorandum being issued, Muslim prisoners were able to pray in congregation with no problems
occurring and without any major complaints from prison officials.
However, on February 15, 2007, the wardens at SSP announced--in a private meeting with me and five other Muslim prisoners--that we would be prohibited from any further congregational prayers in the common area of the dorms.
In support of this prohibition, prison officials have equated Islamic Congregational Prayers (ICP) as "group activities," which are subject to prohibition on the grounds of "institutional safety" and "security." It is understandable that prison officials would be concerned with safety and security within the prison, but one has to
question the reason for this sudden prohibition when there have been no problems in the past with Muslims coming together to make congregational prayer, and where it appears that this new prohibition only seems to be slated toward Muslim prisoners. For example, as many as four prisoners are allowed to sit together and interact in various activities, i.e., playing cards, watching T.V., or even conducting
bible study and discussing religious issues (some of these gatherings have exceeded over forty prisoners at one time). Prison officials seem not to have any safety and security concerns about such non-Muslim gatherings. It seems ironic that men who seek to pray together would be looked upon as a sudden problem, unless there is a hidden agenda in this denial. This agenda is demonstrated in religious discrimination against Muslims.
To my knowledge there exists no regulation prohibiting prisoners from standing at any part of the common area or dayroom. Further, there exists no evidence to suggest that I.C.P. has ever created or caused any undue hardship, safety or security concerns for corrections officers and/or the administration in the past. In fact,
some of the correctional officers feel it is a good thing--a moral and rehabilitative thing--to see men channeling their energies toward the worship of God and acting responsibly, rather than acting in negative and destructive ways.
At present, Muslim prisoners are allowed to pray together on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during their Ta'leem (teaching) classes and Jumu'ah (Friday) service. But, Muslims are instructed (according to their Holy Qur'an) to pray five times per day--seven days a week, everyday.
Denying Muslim prisoners from coming together for this solemn act of worship can lead to other problems, i.e., disrupting their cell mates, which can lead to hostility and aggression, because there's very limited space in the cell and when you have two men occupying a cell, it doesn't leave much room to move around. Not only that, it creates problems for the non-Muslim (living in the same cell) to be disrupted, for they may be sleeping or working on their legal cases, etc. Forcing a Muslim to pray in his respective cell rather than having access to ICP (where there is ample room and it isn't non-intrusive) promotes an array of potential problems, not only for the prisoners but for the corrections officers and administration overall.
What is happening right now is the same kind of thing that caused conditions to breakdown in other prisons where riots have occurred, such as the riot at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville, Ohio. It was the Warden (Tate) at SOCF who came out with orders to suddenly FORCE Muslim prisoners to take a TB test that contained "phenol," which is prohibited to Muslims because it contains alcohol. Alcohol, in any form, is prohibited to Muslims. Warden Tate's orders caused the longest prison riot in U.S. history to occur on April 13, 1993, where lives were lost and five men wrongfully accused, convicted and placed on death row. I do not want to see such actions take place again. In fact, I am writing this article in hopes of avoiding this kind of tragedy from happening.
Thus far, steps have been made to resolve the problem. A grievance was filed on 2/20/07 to address the situation, sighting religious discrimination and the right to exercise religious freedom under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act (R.L.U.I.P.A.). However, the response received from prison officials
dated 3/7/07 was met with resistance--a refusal to rescind the prohibition.
An appeal was filed and sent to the Warden who also denied the grievance on 3/9/07. At present, the Warden's response is being appealed as of 3/14/07 seeking relief in this matter. Understanding the nature of prison officials and their need to deny prisoners at every turn, we are appealing to you--The Public--to help us in this
matter. You may help us by contacting the following parties:
Don Jarriel, Warden; Dan Dasher, Deputy-warden (in-charge of Security) and Wayne Johnson, Deputy Warden (in-charge of Care and Treatment) by phoning: or. [Please ask for the extension of whomever you wish to speak to.] With your help, we can, at least, get the attention of these officials where they will know WE ARE NOT ALONE.
(aka Walter Sanders, Jr. #269802)
Smith State Prison
P.O. Box 726
Glennville, GA 30427
Note: To obtain details regarding this matter please contact Abdus-Salem Karim.