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Consent Decree Sets Religious Diet Regulations at Wyoming State Prison

Based upon a negotiated settlement, a Wyoming federal district court entered a consent decree that establishes rights for prisoners around religious diet regulations at the Wyoming State Prison (WSP).

The suit was brought by two Muslim prisoners, Joseph Miller and Hurie Purdiman, Jr. They claimed the WSP policy of having to “consume their meals within twenty (20) minutes substantially burdens their religion, as they must choose between eating their meals and praying.” They brought the suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Under the consent decree, prisoners receiving meals in their cells or pods will be given 30 minutes to eat and those “receiving religious meals may keep those meals in their cells until the next meal is served.” Those prisoners going to the dining hall and receiving special meals, including religious meals, will go to the front of the line. All prisoners will have 20 minutes “to eat their meals in the dining hall beginning from the time that the last person in the serving line receives his meal.”

An announcement will be made 10 minutes prior to the pod going to eat that they will be escorted to the dining hall, and another announcement will be made five minutes later. Prisoners wishing to engage in personal religious fasts for six days or longer, but not more than 30 days, must give notice to prison officials seven days in advance, and they receive a meal at sunset each day after the sixth day. The policy applies to only personal fasts and not scheduled fasts such as Ramadan. WSP must also “accommodate the Muslim holidays of Hajj and Muharram.”

A second microwave must also be installed in the dining room that is dedicated specifically to non-pork food items. Individually wrapped sanitary wipes are to be sold in the commissary and prisoners will be permitted to use them to clean the microwave. The parties reached an undisclosed agreement on attorney fees. The prisoners were represented by ACLU attorneys Stephen L. Pevar and Jennifer Horvath. See: Miller v. Murphy, USDC, D. Wyoming, Case No. 08-CV-090

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Related legal case

Miller v. Murphy