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Detention center director says new policy is needed for booking people wearing a hijab

The director of the Fayette County Detention Center says the jail will change the way it deals with people wearing religious head coverings, after a complaint was lodged last week about how a Muslim woman was treated during the booking process.

“Current policy does not address religious head coverings at time of booking and is in need of revision to include provisions allowing the wearing of religious head covering at the time someone is taken into custody,” Director Scott Colvin said in an emailed statement in response to questions about the jail’s policy.

Colvin said the current policy requires people to remove head coverings of all kinds, regardless of whether they are being worn for a religious reason, so that the person can be searched “and to properly capture an image of the arrestee’s full face.”

“On Friday, when I was first made aware of this issue, I initiated an immediate review of the intake booking process,” Colvin said in the statement. “I look forward to quickly getting a procedure in place that effectively balances institutional safety and religious accommodations.”

Colvin said the jail does have a policy in place that directs how the jail responds to requests for religious accommodations once detainees have been assigned to a housing unit.

“The current directive on inmate religion includes language allowing the Division Chaplain to authorize accommodations based on an individual’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” Colvin said. “These items include; prayer rugs, head coverings (i.e. kufi or hijab), clothing, religious texts, special diets or a request for religious counseling.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Friday that it had been contacted by a Muslim woman who said she was forced to remove her hijab for the booking photo at the jail last week.

The woman told CAIR that she was initially asked to remove her hijab in “a public hall” where she could be seen by others.

When she refused and asked to be taken to a more private space, CAIR said the woman told them she was taken to another room with a window in the door “and put on a toilet were there was a half wall which would still not cover my head.”

“I was forced to sit bent over for a long time which I couldn’t hold very long. Then I used my dress as a headscarf to be able to sit straight and without back pain,” the statement released by CAIR said. “I truly feel terrorized, terrified and abused by those officers.”

The woman was not named in CAIR’s news release, but the organization said she is “an immigrant physician of Iraqi heritage.” She was arrested on an outstanding warrant by a University of Kentucky police officer during a traffic stop, but CAIR said the charges against her were dropped later in the week.