CAIR-NJ Welcomes NJ Dept. of Corrections’ Policy Allowing Religious Head Coverings for Publicly Posted Photographs
(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 04/17/2023) — The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today welcomed the New Jersey Department of Corrections’ (NJDOC) new policy allowing incarcerated people to wear religious head coverings for intake mugshots that are publicly available.
The department’s decision comes after almost two years of advocacy spearheaded by CAIR-NJ civil rights attorney, Nina Rossi, Esq.
The new policy, which is applicable only to New Jersey prisons, states: “Incarcerated persons may request to wear their religious head coverings for intake photographs that are publicly available.”
In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:
“In the past, Muslim women were being asked to remove their hijabs prior to their intake photo. That’s countless Muslim women whose basic civil rights were potentially violated, but thanks to this new policy, that should no longer be the case.
“Muslim women who wear hijab (head scarves) or niqab (face veils) now have the option to request a ‘Photo Religious Exemption’ form, which would allow them to wear their hijab or niqab in any publicly posted photos.”
In a statement, CAIR-NJ Civil Rights Attorney Nina Rossi said:
“Asking a Muslim woman to remove her hijab for her intake photo is likely a violation of her First Amendment rights as well as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Many Muslim women have expressed that they feel naked when not wearing their hijab. No woman should experience this sort of humiliation.
“This policy has been a long time in the making — we first filed an OPRA request in July 2021 — and it is likely the first of its kind in New Jersey. It is both necessary and long-awaited accommodation.
“We commend the New Jersey Department of Corrections for enacting and enforcing this policy. But we continue to call on county jails to do the same.”
In July 2021, CAIR-NJ filed an OPRA request asking about the NJDOC’s policies regarding intake photos. CAIR-NJ continued to outreach to NJDOC and in September 2021, NJDOC agreed to revisit their policy.
In January 2023, NJDOC produced the current version.
CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, firstname.lastname@example.org, 551-221-5592