Monday, September 13, 2010

Religious Freedom: Is a Courthouse Holding Cell a "Pretrial Detention Facility"?

While this is not a correctional issue per se, it raises interesting questions. Today's Chron reports:

A panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 2-1 in May that Orange County deputies hadn't violated Souhair Khatib's rights by making her take off the religiously mandated headscarf for security reasons when she was placed in the holding cell.

But the court said Monday that a majority of its 27 judges had voted to set that ruling aside and refer the case to an 11-judge panel for a rehearing in December.

The dispute affects thousands of inmates throughout the nine-state circuit who are taken to holding cells before being brought to court, said Khatib's lawyer, Becki Kieffer. She said it was the first such case to reach a federal appeals court.

Kieffer argued that the majority in the three-judge panel's ruling had misinterpreted a federal law that broadly protects inmates' religious freedoms.

The law prohibits government agencies from imposing a "substantial burden" on the right to practice one's religion in a prison, jail or pretrial detention facility. The issue in the case is whether a courthouse holding cell, where inmates are held up to 12 hours before hearings, is a pretrial detention facility.

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