ACLU of Virginia and Muslim Advocates filed an emergency complaint on behalf of Dwayne Law, Jr., a Muslim man incarcerated at a state prison in Baskerville, VA. The complaint asks a federal court to force the facility to provide him with meals before sunrise and after sunset so that he may observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. By refusing to allow Mr. Law to eat with other fasting Muslims during non-daylight hours, Baskerville Correctional Center staff and Warden David Zook are unconstitutionally forcing him to choose between eating to survive during the day or adhering to his deeply-held religious beliefs.
Mr. Law was previously incarcerated at Green Rock Correctional Center in Chatham, VA, where he was improperly denied meal accommodations timed for Ramadan fasting. On April 7, 2022, Mr. Law was transferred to Baskerville Correctional Center, where he was initially given Ramadan meal accommodations. However, on April 17, 2022, Baskerville abruptly changed course and refused to provide Mr. Law with meals during Ramadan hours based on Green Rock Correctional Center’s failure to properly document him as being allowed to participate in Islamic activities. As a result, Mr. Law has spent nearly all of his Ramadan eating only what he can purchase from the commissary at night—including microwaveable ramen, canned mackerel and potato chips. At a meeting, an assistant warden even tried to pressure Mr. Law into dropping his complaints, saying that the facility would not allow him to eat during non-daylight hours no matter what he did. When other incarcerated Muslims tried to support Mr. Law, Captain L. Butcher, a correctional officer at Baskerville, tried to deter them, saying that he “is not a real Muslim.” This is a clear violation of Mr. Law’s constitutional rights to observe his Muslim faith.
With the end of this year’s Ramadan approaching on May 2, Mr. Law, Muslim Advocates and the ACLU of Virginia asked the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to intervene and force Baskerville Correctional Center to allow him to eat with other incarcerated Muslims before sunrise and after sunset.