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Lawsuit Alleges Muslim Inmates Starved Because Prison Gave Them Pork Product During Ramadan

The Council on American-Islamic Relations called it cruel and unusual punishment.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Did an Alaskan prison violate the civil rights of incarcerated Muslims by giving them bologna sandwiches during Ramadan? A lawsuit alleges as much.

Muslim inmates reportedly starved as a result of being given pork products during Ramadan, Newsweek reports.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a lawsuit on May 22 accusing the Anchorage Correctional Complex of violating the rights of two Muslim men by giving them bologna sandwiches.

In accordance with their fasting and religion, the two men were unable to eat the sandwiches, which were offered to them in bagged meals given to them each day after sunset. The total caloric content of the bagged meals ranged between 500 and 1,100 calories a day, the suit alleges, a number already substantially lower than the 2,600 to 2,800 calories a day federal health guidelines dictate the men should consume.

The suit alleges that the facility is required to provide people interned there with at least two hot meals a day — and these men were given cold meals resulting in malnutrition, weight loss and starvation.

CAIR is seeking a “balanced nutritional diet” for the inmates, policy changes, and compensatory and punitive damages, according to their statement.

“The Constitution and Congress forbid prisons from compelling inmates to choose between their faith and food,” said CAIR’s National Litigation Director Lena Masri. “We hope that a court will do what Anchorage Correctional Complex officials will not: ensure that Muslim inmates are not starved or forced to violate the principles of their faith during the holy month of Ramadan.”

A federal judge granted CAIR's request for an emergency temporary restraining order against the prison, requiring them to provide adequate meals that are in accordance with Department of Health guidelines, on May 24, CAIR announced.

Matthias Cicotte, an attorney for the state, called the allegations false, according to ABC News.

Megan Edge, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Corrections, said in a statement to The Hill that the Department of Corrections  provides sack meals for incarcerated people who observe Ramadan, which can be eaten at a time “that best facilitates their fasting.”

The DOC accommodates “many different faiths,” Edge said.

“To the best of our ability, in accordance with Islamic Law, we are providing our Muslim residents the opportunity to succeed during Ramadan by being able to abstain totally from food and drink between dawn and dusk,” she continued.

[Photo: A prisoner behind bars with hands cuffed. By Caspar Benson via Getty Images]