US detention centre changes hijab policy following forced removal during booking
The head of a detention centre in the US state of Kentucky has announced that they will change how they deal with people wearing religious coverings following a recent incident in which a Muslim woman was taken into custody and forced to remove her hijab in a public area for booking.
The incident occurred in July after a local doctor was taken into custody for a minor vehicle-related infraction. She was then taken to the Fayette County Detention Center. Once there, she was taken to a public hall, where officials forced her to remove her hijab as they booked her.
The woman, a physician of Iraqi origin, whose name has not been publicly released, shared her story with the Council on American Islamic Relations, which issued a public statement condemning the incident and calling for an investigation into the facility's denial of religious rights.
The response by the detention centre was swift, with its director, Scott Colvin, acknowledging that until this point, they didn't have the proper regulations in place to address religious head coverings, according to local news reports.
"Current policy does not address religious head coverings at the time of booking and is in need of revision to include provisions allowing the wearing of religious head covering at the time someone is taken into custody," Colvin said by email in response to questions on the jail's policy, according to a report by the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Colvin reportedly said the current policy requires people to remove head coverings of all kinds, regardless of reason, so that they can be searched "and properly capture an image of the arrestee's full face."
CAIR, which regularly handles cases involving religious accommodation at jails and prisons, was pleased with the response. However, they noted that such considerations, which are constitutionally protected, should have already been in place.
"Many jails and prisons across the country recognise their constitutional obligation to accommodate people of faith. That doesn't end at the walls of prisons and jails," Edward Ahmed Mitchell, national deputy director for CAIR, told The New Arab. "Many are not aware of that right."
He added, "This change will not only help Muslim women but also Jews, Sikhs and even some Christians. Everyone benefits."