On 2/28/21 several Muslim men who are incarcerated at ERDCC in Bonne Terre were pepper sprayed while praying. We’ve been sent information on this a few times recently, but we now, for the first time, hear from one of the men involved. This was, at the very least, handled very poorly by DOC staff. We will say, we know the name of the officer who instigated this and we’ve been told her coworkers have made several complaints against her. So, it seems to be more than her just handling things poorly.
“The evening of February 28, 2021, seven of us Muslims were preparing to make “Isha”, our late evening prayer. In fact, just a few hours earlier we all made “Maghrib” together in the wing, which is the prayer after sundown. Normally when we make Salat in the wing, we’re not interfering with anything, nobody bothers us, the wing allows the space to pray in peace. This day, as we were preparing to make Salat, Officer ******** ****** entered the wing, made her rounds and left after speaking to a few guys. When she left, we began praying. Shortly after we began, she reentered the wing and bee lined straight to where we were, like a bat out of hell and said something to the effect of “Gentleman, end this now!”. Personally I didn’t know what she thought was going on because all we were doing was praying, so we continued. When nobody moved, she said “I said stop now or you’re going to the hole!” Still nobody moved, so she told everybody else to lock down. Then she called “10-5” (Officer in need of assistance) on her radio, and in rushed like 20 more officers, including Officer **** ****. Both he and ****** are higher ranking officers, but I’m not sure of their ranks. Through all of this, we continued to pray. She then instructed her officers to “spray ’em and lock these m****rf*****s up!”. Then we were all heavily doused in burning pepper spray, placed in handcuffs and escorted out of the wing. Blinded by the pepper, we were intentionally ran into walls and doorways. When we got outside, I could hear Officer **** say “If they don’t wanna walk, drag them! If they don’t walk, slam them of their f*****g heads! These m****rf*****s think they could f**k with us!”
We were then escorted through medical, where we were asked our names and inmate numbers. We weren’t offered any medical assistance for the mace or anything. After that we were escorted to the hole, barefoot, through mud, puddles, wet grass, etc. Once we got to the hole, we were stripped down to our underwear and thrown into empty cells with no mats, blankets, or even running water. Also, we weren’t given showers until about 3:30 the next evening. About 2:30 that morning, Officer ******* ****** came and first, read us Miranda Rights, then read us our conduct violations. We were given rules 9.4 (Organized Disobedience) and 20.1 (Disobeying an Order), and referred to the Ad-seg Hearing Officer. On March 10, 2021 our violations were reduced to a rule 19.1 (Creating a Disturbance) and we were released from ad-seg.
I will say that we didn’t stop praying because as Muslims, we’re not supposed to break off prayer for any reason. We’re not even supposed to be interrupted during prayer. Also, in the USA, you’re afforded the right to practice any religion, according to the constitution. We weren’t bothering anybody. We didn’t hurt anybody. We didn’t even say a word or get hostile with the officers. They tried to tell us that congregational prayer can only be done in the chapel, which is not true. In fact, the day after we went to the hole, the Deputy Warden called a meeting with the Muslims in the chapel. He told them that we’re allowed to pray together in the wing. Also on March 13, 2021, the seven of us made “Isha” together in the wing again. Again, we were approached by officers and told that we weren’t allowed to pray in the wing. So now we’re being harassed by corrections officers.
The seven of us are filing grievances on both situations, as well as trying to obtain the “Use of Force” video from 2-28-21 for later civil litigation. We do appreciate all your assistance in this matter. At the end of the day, we want to shed light on our situation, as well as seek justice for being attacked by corrections officers for doing nothing more than practicing our religion. Again I want to thank you on behalf of all of us for allowing us the opportunity to share this with your organization and others. We really appreciate your assistance. If you or anyone else has any other questions, feel free to contact me”