Equal Justice Works Fellow: Najmu Mohseen

CLCMA proudly welcomes upcoming law school graduate Najmu Mohseen, who will join us in August to begin her two-year Equal Justice Works Fellowship. Under the supervision of designated senior attorneys at CLCMA and with oversight from the pro bono attorneys at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Ms. Mohseen will create an exhaustive guidebook designed to modify prison and immigration detention centers’ treatment of Muslim inmates and detainees. She plans to achieve this goal by creating and offering a comprehensive manual to institutions, which will set forth the legal and religious requirements for accommodations as well as cost-effective methods for implementation. The manual will address religious requirements including dietary restrictions and fasting during Ramadan, prayer times, and more needs identified through recent CLCMA cases and others across the country. For many years, Muslim (and other minority religion adherent) inmates have found slowly increasing success in challenging restrictive or simply under-informed policies. While this is great to see, all these efforts have been reactive rather than proactive. The policies reflect only change, if at all, after a violation of rights has already occurred. The manual Ms. Mohseen envisions seeks to rectify non-conforming policies before more violations occur. This benefits both the institutions and the inmates, as litigation is often costly and always time-consuming for all parties involved.

These efforts will compliment know-your-rights presentations presented to mosques, MSAs, youth groups, and any other entity which may be interested in the religious rights of inmates and detainees. The purpose for this is twofold: first, by educating the community, members will become aware of their rights should they ever find themselves in a situation described; and second, often the clergy at these facilities are not fully aware of the First Amendment rights of the Muslim inmates housed in the facility, and therefore are not adequately able to counsel these congregants. Greater awareness makes it easier to know when a violation is taking place, and hopefully prevent that from occurring.

“We are thrilled to have Najmu joining us, and look forward to working with her to help with the creation of this valuable resource,” said Christina Jump, Civil Litigation Department Head for CLCMA. “We have seen in multiple litigation matters that lack of education and proper resources present the most common barriers to effective policies. We look forward to being part of the solution, and providing knowledge-based resources which will be readily available for institutions wanting to do the right things.”