ACLU of Alaska sues Department of Corrections over religious freedom issue

Federal suit alleges inmate not permitted to wear his religious head covering
ACLU of Alaska sues Department of Corrections over religious freedom issues
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 2:38 PM AKST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2023 at 5:51 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska filed a federal class action lawsuit Wednesday against the Alaska Department of Corrections on behalf of inmate William Gary.

Gary is currently at the Anchorage Correctional Complex. The suit says staff at ACC refused to allow Gary, a practicing Muslim, to wear his headcover, a kufi, in certain parts of the facility. The suit says other DOC facilities allow inmates to wear kufis throughout the institutions. The suit says ACC staff have also insulted Gary’s Muslim faith and denied him other appropriate expressions of his faith.

Gary is in pre-trial detention on a murder charge.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all current and future Muslims detained at ACC, as well.

The ACLU of Alaska claims in the suit that inmates “do not leave their religion at the jailhouse doors, nor do they leave their constitutional rights behind either.”

A press release from the group says DOC “unconstitutionally infringed on equal protection guarantees and religious freedom rights under the U.S. and Alaska Constitutions.”

A DOC spokeswoman says the DOC has not yet seen the lawsuit and, therefore, has no comment at this time.