A 24-year-old Muslim woman is suing an Ohio prison after, she claims, Cuyahoga County corrections officers forced her to attend Christian prayer services under threat of solitary confinement.
The young woman, Sakeena Majeed, alleges that one officer in particular made her attend weekly Christian prayers on Fridays, and the other guards mocked her for refusing to say the prayers out loud.
Matthew Besser, the attorney representing Majeed, said that at the moment he is trying to establish whether or not his client was singled out or if it was normal practice in the facility for make inmates attend prayer services.
During her time incarcerated, Majeed was held with 50 other inmates in a “trustee pod” zone in which inmates are not confined to their rooms and are allowed to walk freely in certain parts of the jail.
Besser spoke to the Los Angeles Times, telling them,
“At this point, it’s too early to know exactly how widespread the practice is, and has been, and whether it had occurred in other portions of the jail. The only evidence I have here is that it occurred in the trustee pod. Our understanding is all the inmates in the pod were forced to go, some were willing and happy to go, and others less so.”
The lawsuit, which is seeking “unspecified damages” alleges that the prison violated Majeed’s constitutional rights by making her attend Christian prayers, and she was often mocked by other officers when she refused to attend.
The young Muslim woman was inside for a 60-day sentence relating to an April 2014 altercation which she had with a police officer in Cleveland. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault of an off-duty police officer after the two got in an argument.
It remains to be seen what the outcome of the sensitive case will be, and the effect it will have on minority ethnic groups in prison in the future.