ACLU complaint leads to change

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October 10, 2013 - 12:00 AM

Sheriff Bryan Murphy characterized as an oversight an Allen County Jail policy that said inmates “could simply choose not to eat at the county jail” if the food did not meet the dictates of their religion.
As an example, those of the Jewish faith who do not eat pork, can request an alternative rather than going hungry.
The policy was brought to Allen County authorities’ attention by the American Civil Liberties Union. Doug Bonney, legal director of the ACLU Foundation of Kansas, said the Allen County policy was found during review of policies at several Kansas jails. He said the policy was unconstitutional in its requirement that inmates “choose between starvation and remaining true to their religious creeds.”
In his 20 years association with the Allen County Sheriff Department, including time as jail administrator before being elected sheriff, Murphy said he could not remember an inmate ever lodging a complaint about the jail’s food because it did not adhere with their religion.
“We work with diabetics and others who have medical concerns with food to meet their needs,” he added.
The ACLU notified the county Friday that its policy violated the inmates’ constitutional and statutory rights. Bonney said he was pleased Allen County agreed to amend the policy.
Allen County Counselor Alan Weber said the meals entry was old, and was removed Wednesday.
Murphy said jail policies were reviewed at least once a year, along with all others affecting the department, and that the one questioned by the ACLU had been overlooked.
“They’re living documents,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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