Religious Freedom Restored. Right to wear hijab in Virginia Prisons

As a devout Muslim, our client Regina sought to observe hijab while incarcerated in a Virginia prison. But she experienced verbal abuse and threats of punishment from the guards at her facility, just for exercising her constitutionally protected right to observe her religion. The areas where Regina could wear her hijab without discipline gradually diminished, until it was limited to only being permitted while she was in her cell.

Her troubles did not stop there. The supervisors at her facility even threatened her with punishment for wearing hijab in gathering places of her own housing unit.

In response to her struggles, the Civil Litigation team at the Muslim Legal Fund of America’s legal division, worked with prison officials and the Virginia Office of the Attorney General to protect Regina’s religious rights. The result: the State of Virginia’s Department of Corrections now allows all inmates to wear religious head-coverings far more widely than it did before we got involved.

Effective December 1, 2020, the Department of Corrections in Virginia updated its operating procedures and now allows inmate hat and head coverings for religious reasons inside the prison facilities state-wide.

Regina’s story is an important reminder of the importance of religious freedom. The efforts of the attorneys at MLFA’s legal division will not just benefit Regina: they also brought immediate help to all people of faith who wish to cover their heads within the Virginia Department of Corrections. We were proud to represent Regina, and continue to work with other clients to enforce similar religious expression rights.