Indiana Prison Warden: Muslims Can Pray In Pairs
By Brandon Smith
The warden of an Indiana federal prison in Terre Haute says allowing Muslim inmates to pray in groups larger than two threatens security in the facility.
Warden John Oliver said Thursday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis that when group prayer was allowed, prisoners began exhibiting gang-like behavior, including extorting and disciplining other inmates and openly defying prison staff.
In response, Oliver changed the prison unit’s policy in May, only allowing Muslim inmates to pray in their cells in groups of two, which he said is still congregate prayer and therefore complies with the court order.
Ken Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is representing John Walker Lindh, an American-born Taliban fighter housed at the prison. Falk said the warden is not complying with a court order allowing Muslim inmates to pray in a group five times a day.
“What the court found was that group prayer in the unit outside the cell had been occurring for years on this unit and as I tried to say to the court, it seemed that the court’s decision wanted group prayer to be treated like any other congregate activity occurring outside the cell, not restricted to the cell,” he said.
A federal judge in Indianapolis said she will make a decision on whether the warden has violated her order to allow group prayer.