CAIR Florida and ACLU of Florida assist Muslim inmates at Miami-Dade County Corrections to file grievances for lack of religious accommodation in meal policy.


Ali Kurnaz, CAIR Florida Communications Coordinator, (407) 694-9584,;
ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363-2737,

MIAMI – The Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida (CAIR Florida) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida are working to ensure the availability of Halal meals for Muslim inmates at Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Department (MDCR) facilities. The organizations have received over 35 complaints from inmates since MDCR began serving non-Halal meals to Muslim inmates on October 1, 2014, while continuing to provide faith-based meals to inmates of other religions.

CAIR Florida and the ACLU of Florida are assisting inmates in filing formal grievances since MDCR refused to change its policy after repeated letters and meetings about the illegality of the policy.

“CAIR Florida always tries to amicably resolve problems through advocacy,” said Thania Diaz Clevenger, Civil Rights Director of CAIR Florida. “However, it is in cases like these where we have been working for over seven months to reach a resolution, we are left with no other option but to pursue formal legal avenues.”

MDCR’s Faith-Based Meals Policy explicitly provides that Muslim inmates requesting a Halal diet will instead receive the diet for the general population. Under Islamic principles, a Halal diet, among other things, prohibits the meat of certain animals or their derivatives, requires animals eaten to be slaughtered in a particular manner, prohibits the consumption of alcohol or food containing alcohol, and mandates that the food not come into contact with non-Halal foods.

CAIR Florida and the ACLU of Florida’s advocacy on behalf Muslim inmates—informing MDCR that the general population diet does not comply with Islamic principles of Halal, and thus violates the rights of Muslim prisoners to religious freedom and equal protection under the law and notifying MDCR about the specific complaints of 17 Muslim inmates—has resulted in no changes to the policy.

“Individuals do not lose their constitutional rights just because they are behind bars,” said Shalini Goel Agarwal, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Florida. “When a particular diet is part of an inmate’s religious practice, jails need to respect that—especially when they already do so for inmates other faiths.”

One Muslim inmate, Juan Alvarez, characterized MDCR’s inmate meals policy as “unfair.”

“I feel mistreated,” said Alvarez. “It is unfair that MDCR accommodates the religious beliefs of non-Muslim inmates by fully accommodating the dietary requirements of their religion while ignoring the religious beliefs of Muslim inmates.”

As CAIR Florida and ACLU of Florida continue to assist the 17 inmates file grievances with MDCR, they will also investigate dietary and other concerns raised by many other inmates about the violation of their constitutional and statutory rights from MDCR’s failure to accommodate their religious practices.