In April 2012, Shifa and a group of Muslim American political prisoners in the Communication Management Unit (CMU) at Marion, IL went on hunger strike. Since September 2011 the new Warden and her staff have been horribly abusing and violating Muslim inmates increasingly– harassing during individual and congregational prayer times, revoking religiously prescribed meal, banning educational programs, torturing with lights on in the cells 24/7, and terminating communication with the outside world– and denying their constitutionally granted human rights. Seeing the atrocious mistreatment of Muslim prisoners, the non-Muslim inmates also went on hunger strike in solidarity. The Warden tried to silence Muslim prisoners by punishing them in solitary confinement and barring their communication.
Faith-based segregated imprisonment and isolation at the CMU-Marion egregiously targets, discriminates, silences and abuses a minority religious group collectively. At its core it also represses a group for practicing their faith and demanding their constitutionally granted rights to religious freedom. We see clear lines connecting the CMU-Marion struggle to the California hunger striker’s struggle– demanding their constitutional and human rights– and preceding decades of prisoner-led demands to their rights throughout the prison system.
The demands of Muslim prisoners include: religiously prescribed meal, individual and congregational prayers, religious and spiritual classes and educational programs, and contacts with family and friends. The CMU-Marion
political prisoners’ demands resonate strongly with what Justice for Shifa Support Committee believes are part of our human rights to freedom of religion and granting these rights to prisoners is a way to make our communities free of religious bigotry and racial oppression.
We believe the US Government established these two ‘secret’ units, CMUs in Illinois and Indiana, inside the Federal Prison System to harass and prevent Muslim prisoners from practicing their faith. We believe the
US-state is violently engaged in ‘missionary tactics’ using the CMUs to assimilate and make Muslims into non-Muslims– by banning their basic spiritual and religious practices and education– in violation of the US
Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We encourage people everywhere to stand in solidarity with the CMU-Marion political prisoner hunger strikers and forge connections across the prison walls meant to disappear so many of our loves ones, friends and neighbors.
Justice for Shifa Support Committee demands an investigation into the incidences at CMU-Marion, removal of the abusive Warden, and a stop to all missionary tactics of the government under the guise of fighting the War on
Wendy J. Roal, Warden
4500 Prison Rd
Marion, IL 62959
Dear Warden Roel,
I am writing to express my deep concern over the pattern of harassment and mistreatment of Muslim inmates while in your custody in the Communication Management Unit (CMU) at USP-Marion.
It appears that your administration has recently placed many Muslims in solitary confinement without explanation. In addition, their right to freely practice the Muslim faith has been severely impaired on
multiple occasions, forcing them to go on a hunger strike. Numerous CMU inmates from your facility have been complaining about illegal activities that your administration and staff are engaging in to deny Muslim religious
and spiritual services under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and BOP regulations as well as the First Amendment.
According to reports, these abuses have worsened since your administration began in September 2011. The reports allege either you personally or your staff are engaging in the following pattern of misconduct and illegal behavior:
1) Walking in on Muslims in the Chapel during Friday religious services and interrupting service while the Muslim preacher delivers the sermon.
2) Cancelling several religious and spiritual classes that were approved by the Bureau of Prison staff and taught for several months before your arrival.
3) Refusing to provide religiously prescribed Muslim meals, Halal meals and food items which were approved by the Chaplain and Trust Fund Supervisor at the BOP.
4) Barring Muslim inmates from observing religious practices and holidays
5) Causing health problems by keeping lights on in the cells 24/7
6) Harassing Muslim inmates during their individual and congregational prayers
7) Denying Muslims morning prayer
8) Banning congregational Muslim prayer
9) Stopping all educational and rehabilitative programs for Muslims
10) Prohibiting communication with the outside world
The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) protects the religious rights of federal inmates. See Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709 (2005). It appears that your facility has been involved in serious discrimination against Muslim inmates. I request that the following actions be taken immediately.
· Provide information on protocol and procedures regarding maintenance of prisoner safety, adherence to prisoner requests regarding communication with family members;
· Provide information about measures that have been taken to ensure CMU Muslim inmates are able to observe and practice their faith freely;
· Provide information to NCPCF about the current steps taken to ensure Muslim inmates are not harassed and disturbed during individual and congregational prayer;
· Ensure that Muslim inmates constitutionally protected right to freely practice their religion is not being violated while they are in your facility;
· Provide all Muslim inmates with a formal written apology;
· Ensure Muslim inmates will not be retaliated against as a result of this complaint;
· Compensate all Muslim inmates for the emotional distress they may have suffered as a result of the extreme illegal discrimination;
· Provide information about the type of cultural and religious sensitivity training is conducted for corrections personnel;
I look forward to a positive and swift resolution to this matter. Issues of such severe violations of civil and religious rights are of grave concern to me as an American citizen. I will continue to monitor this situation very closely and take any appropriate action that it deems necessary, including seeking further public attention for this case.
I appreciate you taking prompt action to remedy these serious issues inside CMU-Marion.
Thomas E. Perez
Assistant Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Office of the Assistant Attorney General
Washington, DC 20530
Michael E. Horowitz
US Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Director Charles E. Samuels, Jr.
U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20534
United States Senate
Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
52 Rue Des Paquis
CH – 201 Geneva, Switzerland
Congressman John Conyers
United States House of Representative
2426 Rayburn H.O.B
Washington, DC 20515
Attorney Alan Mills
Uptown People’s Law Center
4413 N. Sheridan
Chicago, IL 60640