The agreement backed by U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn on Monday guarantees the state’s Muslim inmate population meals that comply with Muslim dietary laws. But the agreement doesn’t require the state to serve meat to Muslim prisoners. The state says it will provide standard vegan meals to all inmates with religious dietary restrictions.
Some inmates objected to the settlement, saying they shouldn’t have to switch to a vegan diet in order to practice their beliefs.
At a hearing Monday, Judge Cohn told the parties that he would approve the proposed settlement, which has yet to be signed and entered, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which represented the inmates.
The inmates sued in 2006, claiming that by denying prisoners halal meals, Michigan was violating their rights to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. The state has for several years offered kosher meals to Jewish inmates.
Michigan’s corrections department couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
Under the agreement, Muslim inmates who were punished for skipping a work detail so that they could attend weekly prayer services or observe major Islamic holidays can now get the punishment expunged from their records.
“The government cannot deprive Americans of their fundamental right to practice religion, even when they are behind bars,” said Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan.