A Muslim woman has been awarded $120,000 (£91,400) after she was allegedly made to undress and remove her hijab to take a booking photo at a prison.
In 2013, Aida Shyef Al-Kadi turned herself in after a warrant was issued for her arrest over a missed court hearing, following a traffic ticket she received while driving her daughter to hospital.
But once in custody at Ramsey County jail, she said in a lawsuit that she was told to remove her hijab and abaya in front of mail jailers. She objected and was moved to a holding cell, where she removed her hijab in front of a male officer, she alleged.
Ms Al-Kadi agreed to remove her head covering for a booking photo after she was told that it would not be released to the public, but she later found it on a third-party website that charges users to remove mugshots from the site, her lawsuit claimed.
Officers gave her a sheet to use in place of a head covering and was told to change into a jail uniform in front of two female officers.
She also was punished with nearly 24 hours in solitary confinement as punishment for complaining to jail staff, it is said.
US District Judge John Tunheim noted that “the key question in this case is whether Al-Kadi’s ‘noncompliance’ consisted of anything more than a request for a religious accommodation”.
With support from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ms Al-Kadi filed a lawsuit against the county in US District Court alleging violations against her constitutional rights and religious discrimination.
Judge Tunheim observed that the evidence “supports Al-Kadi’s allegations that she was singled out, given less freedom, and subject to more vigilance” based on her religion.
The settlement includes new policies that allow people to wear head coverings while in custody as long as the covering is pulled back “to reveal the hairline while still covering the ears”.
Sheriff’s deputies also will receive training for processing and accommodating inmates with religious requirements.
The county also agreed to destroy all copies of the booking photo.
Ramsey County amended its jail policies in 2014 to provide jail-approved hijabs to people who require head coverings.
Al-Kadi said her treatment “was one of the most humiliating and harmful experiences of my life … I knew that I did not want any other Muslim woman to experience what I did”.