WASHINGTON – A Muslim inmate says prisoners around the country are regularly mistreated by their jailers because of religious faith. The Supreme Court is considering his case Monday.
The issue in the inmate's lawsuit is whether he can sue prison officials for allegedly confiscating two copies of his Quran and his prayer rug.
Abdus-Shahid M.S. Ali, a convicted murderer, says the books and rug are among the personal items that have been missing since 2003, when he was moved from a federal penitentiary in Atlanta to a facility at Inez, Ky.
Muslim inmates have been subjected to "very hard times and bad treatment" at the hands of federal, state and local prison employees because of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Ali says in court papers.
Ali is serving a sentence of 20 years to life in prison for committing first-degree murder in the District of Columbia.
It seems as though "the many prison employees think that they can hurt you best taking your personally owned property," Ali wrote.
Ali added that because he has "practiced his faith to the fullest" he has been subjected to prison officials repeatedly confiscating and destroying his legal and religious property.
He said he has been harassed for his religious beliefs "year after year" in both the District of Columbia Department of Corrections and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Ali says the items he turned over to prison officers in Atlanta for shipment never arrived at Inez.
In the Supreme Court, the question is whether federal prison officials qualify as law enforcement officers and are therefore exempt from suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946. The statute bars liability claims against law enforcement officers involved in detaining property. Two lower federal courts ruled against Ali.
Besides the two copies of the Quran and the prayer rug, Ali is missing stamps and other personal items worth $177 that he says weren't sent along to Big Sandy penitentiary in Kentucky.
The case is Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prison, 06-9130.