Richland County prison officials say they have changed some of their policies in response to a complaint filed by an Islamic woman who was detained there last year.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says it had requested a policy change after a complaint from a Muslim woman who was taken into custody at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Columbia on December 31 and was allegedly told to remove her hijab so she could have her booking photograph taken.
According to a statement from CAIR, the booking officer reportedly disregarded the woman’s religious concerns and “intimidated” her into removing her scarf in the presence of a male officer. The organization said the Muslim inmate’s husband was allegedly informed that “all Muslim women take off their scarves” when in custody.
The woman was not identified by CAIR or prison officials.
Richland County officials say they reviewed their policies and agreed a change was needed. Prison director Ronaldo Myers wrote to CAIR, responding, “As requested, we have reviewed and updated our policies to ensure clarity with our staff on the processing and searching of female detainees of the Muslim faith, and specifically have exempted the wearing of religious headwear from our facility’s ‘Prohibited Acts’ policy.”
“For us who are not familiar with the Muslim religion, it probably didn’t seem like a big deal,” said county spokeswoman Stephanie Snowden, “But for a Muslim woman, it would probably have been akin to being naked.”
CAIR National Legal Director Nadhira Al-Khalili said the organization is working with other facilities in South Carolina after receiving reports of similar incidents across the state. CAIR offers a tool kit called ‘A Correctional Institution’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices.”
Sheree Bernardi of Charleston affiliate WTMA contributed to this report