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$25,000 Settlement to Colorado Jail Prisoner Denied a Quran

In May 2017, the Sheriff’s Department in Adams County, Colorado paid $25,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a jail prisoner who was denied access to a Quran during Ramadan in 2015. It also agreed to make changes to jail policies regarding Muslim prisoners.

Marquise Demont Harris, “an American-born Sunni Muslim,” was transported to the Adams County Detention Center and booked into the facility. During the booking process, his copy of the Quran was seized and placed in his property. He was told the sheriff had a policy of refusing to allow Muslim prisoners to bring their Qurans into the jail. At that time the month of Ramadan had already begun, which requires fasting during daylight hours.

Harris used a request form to ask for another Quran. The reply stated he could not receive any religious items until he had been classified and placed into the jail’s general population. During Ramadan, Harris repeatedly asked for a Quaran as well as Halal meals delivered before sunrise or after sunset. He received neither. On July 28, 2015, several days after Ramadan had ended, Harris was given a Quran to resolve an administrative investigation that found he had been improperly denied the holy book.

Harris then filed a pro se federal civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the denial of a Quran and Halal meals during Ramadan prevented him from practicing his religion in violation of the First Amendment. He also raised state tort claims. The lawsuit named the Adams County Sheriff’s Department, the sheriff and jail staff as defendants; subsequently, Denver attorney David Lane began representing Harris.

To settle the case, the Sheriff’s Department agreed to pay Harris $25,000. It also agreed to change its practices and policies so Muslim prisoners who request religious materials will receive them in a timely manner. Further, they will be allowed to congregate for prayer when Muslim leaders visit the jail, and will be served meals before sunrise and after sunset during the month of Ramadan.

The Sheriff’s Department also agreed to consider providing Halal meals to Muslim prisoners “if an option for providing those meals is financially feasible.” See: Harris v. Adams County Sheriff’s Department, U.S.D.C. (D. Colo.), Case No. l:16-cv-00574-REB-MEH. 

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Related legal case

Harris v. Adams County Sheriff’s Department