Muslim inmates in Miami-Dade County denied Halal meals, civil rights groups say

ACLU, CAIR say corrections officials violating faith-based meals policy

MIAMI - Two civil rights groups claim Muslim inmates at Miami-Dade County jails haven't been fed meals in accordance with Islamic law.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida said Wednesday the organizations have received more than 35 complaints from inmates since the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department began serving non-Halal meals to Muslim inmates.

Both organizations claim the county's jail facilities stopped serving non-Halal meals in October 2014, in violation of its faith-based meals policy.

Under Islamic law, a Halal diet prohibits the meat of certain animals and mandates that the food not come into contact with other non-Halal meals, among other things.

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CAIR Florida and the ACLU said they have informed corrections officials about the specific complaints of 17 Muslim inmates, but there has been no change.

"Some of them are not eating, or they're not eating enough," Thania Diaz-Clevenger, civil rights director for CAIR Florida, told Local 10 News.

She said the inmates don't understand why their constitutional rights are being violated.

"They're conflicted with, 'Should I practice my religion, something I sincerely believe and it's a part of me, or do I starve,'" Diaz-Clevenger said.

The organizations said they will now file formal grievances after repeated letters and meetings have failed to bring about change.

"Last month, we met with members of CAIR to discuss concerns related to the meals being offered to our Muslim inmates," Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department spokeswoman Janelle Hall told Local 10 News in a statement. "CAIR stated the Halal meal is the only acceptable option for Muslim inmates. However, CAIR was informed during this meeting that the department's Imam, who has serviced the Muslim inmate population for several years and has guided us on Muslim-related issues, found the alternative meal currently offered to the Muslim inmates to be in accordance with Muslim principles. Although MDCR consistently meets the religious dietary needs of our inmate population, including those of the Muslim faith, CAIR was advised that we would give further consideration to the offering of Halal meals as an additional option. We will continue to work with CAIR and the Muslim community regarding issues that may affect our Muslim inmates and welcome assistance with identifying additional Imams willing to volunteer their services." 

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