Senator Cortese’s Bill Would Protect Inmate Religious Practices

Incarcerated individuals would receive new religious protections under a bill introduced Monday by Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose).

The Senator’s bill, SB 309, would create a uniform state policy providing clear guidelines on religious clothing, headwear, and grooming. Studies show that this form of religious exercise reduces violence and other negative behaviors in correctional facilities, and lowers recidivism.

Incarcerated Californians maintain basic civil liberties while they serve their time,” said Senator Cortese. “SB 309 would ensure that Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and other religious minorities should preserve their right to religious dress and practice without harm or disruption.”

While policies by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) mention the right to certain religious clothing and headwear, the rules are limited to state-run facilities. Each local detention facility is left to adopt its own policies and procedures. SB 309 would create a consistent and codified policy for state and local correction and detention facilities that ensures the right to religious clothing, grooming, and headwear for all individuals in custody.

I stand in support of religious freedom. When a person enters into custody and they are stripped of their religious clothing, they are also stripped of their identity,” said Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes. “No one should be forced to fight for their faith. I’m proud to support Senator Cortese in this effort.”

At the heart of ensuring civil rights is recognizing a person’s humanity. Whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Sikh, or a member of any other faith, the ability to practice your faith is essential to the rehabilitation process,” said Nazeehah Khan, Policy and Government Affairs Manager with the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).  
We thank Senator Cortese for his leadership in recognizing the value of religious expression for all and we look forward to working with the Senator’s office to make this bill a reality in California.”

The Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association believes in the Constitution of the United States and its provisions which allows for freedom of religion,” said Antonio Cueva, Vice President of the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers’ Association. “We stand with our CAIR friends to ensure those freedoms are guaranteed and protected.”

SB 309 is sponsored by CAIR and the Tayba Foundation.