July 19, 2018
Issues: Law Enforcement Bias, Religious Freedom
Muslim Civil Rights Group Files Suit Against New York Corrections Department for Violations of Freedom of Religion and Disability Rights
Washington, DC – Last night, Muslim Advocates filed a lawsuit against the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”) and several of its employees on behalf of Dwinel Monroe, a Muslim New Yorker who was formerly incarcerated. As alleged in the complaint, DOCCS employees engaged in a series of discriminatory actions, including denying Mr. Monroe the right to observe the sacred month of Ramadan and to participate in weekly prayer services, as known as Jummah.
During Ramadan of 2015, Monroe, a Type II diabetic, was housed at a DOCCS facility. Most observant Muslims fast daily from sunrise until sunset during the month of Ramadan, and in order to accommodate his fasting schedule, Mr. Monroe requested that his insulin be delivered to him after sundown. Although DOCCS employees were fully able to do so, they refused to alter his insulin delivery schedule. Instead they forced him to choose between maintaining his health or observing his religious beliefs. As a result of their actions, Mr. Monroe suffered substantial physical and emotional distress.
Mr. Monroe’s maltreatment continued when he was transferred to another facility where at DOCCS employees once more denied him the ability to practice his faith, this time by not providing him access to Jummah prayer services by refusing to accommodate his walking disability. For two years, he was unable to participate in Jummah despite his repeated requests for reasonable accommodation to practice his sincerely held religious beliefs.
“New York prisons are not Constitution free zones,” says Nimra Azmi, Staff Attorney at Muslim Advocates. “The shocking mistreatment of Dwinel Monroe by New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and its employees is in blatant violation of both his constitutional right to religious freedom and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This case should alarm every New Yorker whose tax dollars are subsidizing this misbehavior.”
Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.