San Bernardino County agrees to jail headscarves

ORANGE (AP) — San Bernardino County will allow jailed Muslim women to wear headscarves after settling a lawsuit with a woman who alleged her religious freedoms were violated when she was forced to remove her hijab during a 12-hour jail stay, her attorney said today.

The county, which did not admit wrongdoing, will also pay $45,000 in damages, according to a settlement agreement signed by the county last week and released today.

Plaintiff Jameelah Medina will get $10,000 after subtracting attorney fees, said Hector Villagra, director of the Orange County office of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The settlement specifies that Muslim women must be provided a private area to remove their headscarves after arrest and must be provided with county-issued headscarves to cover themselves when they are in the presence of men.

A spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department did not immediately return a call Monday from The Associated Press.

Medina, 30, was arrested in December 2005 in Pomona for having an invalid train pass.
She spent a day in jail but was never prosecuted.

Medina, a business trainer who lives in Rialto, said during processing she was forced to remove her headscarf in the presence of a male deputy even though she explained that to do so violated her religious beliefs.

“I felt exposed and vulnerable,” she said. “I don’t think I could have felt more naked even if I had no clothes on.”

Medina and her attorneys said the settlement was important because it addressed the county’s concerns about safety while respecting Muslims’ religious beliefs.

“We had a concern about religious rights and they had a concern about safety. We met halfway to ensure that nothing like this will ever happen again,” Villagra said.

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