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BOP Settles FTCA Abuse/Religious Discrimination Suit for $48,000

n August 12, 2009, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) agreed to settle a lawsuit by a Muslim former prisoner who alleged that he was tortured and beaten after complaining to investigators about his Quar’an and Kufi being desecrated.

From April 5, 1996, until October 4, 2005, Hakeem Shaheed was incarcerated at United States Penitentiary (USP) Marion, one of a handful of control units operated by the BOP. After the September 11th attacks, Shaheed, like most other Muslim prisoners, faced ridicule, scorn and abuse by guards.

In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Shaheed’s complaint recounts how guards at Marion “intentionally plac[ed] his Holy Qur’an on a floor stained with spit” and “squeezed his Kufi in an obvious attempt to insult [his] religion.”

Shaheed reported this conduct to the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), who investigated the al-legations, making several trips to Marion to speak with Shaheed.

On October 3, 2005, after reporting what happened to the OIG, Shaheed’s complaint alleges guards set out to “torture and otherwise physically and mentally abuse” him. According to Shaheed, guards came to his cell “seized him, struck him, handcuffed [his] hands behind his back, shackled his ankles and took him to the prison hospital.”

While at the prison hospital, Shaheed alleged that he was punched and that a baton was ground into his face and spine, shoved into his mouth and rammed into his “rectal area, over his pants.” All of this abuse, Shaheed alleged, oc-curred while medical staff watched and ignored his cries for help. One medical staff member, according to Shaheed, went as far as to give pointers to the guards on where to hit Shaheed in order to cause greater pain.

After further humiliation and torture, Shaheed was transferred to the federal death row unit at USP Terre Haute for his own protection. Shaheed filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) after his release.

Shaheed’s attorney, John Stainthorp from the People’s Law Office in Chicago, said the BOP’s decision to settle the case was an obvious “recognition … that there was abuse of Mr. Shaheed that was unconscionable.” The BOP denied any liability in settling the case. The BOP paid $48,000 to settle the case. The complaint and settlement are available on PLN’s website. See: Shaheed v. United States of America, USDC SD IL, Case No. 07-CV-679-MJR (2009).

Additional source: Associated Press

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Related legal case

Shaheed v. United States of America

Please see the brief bank for documents related to this case.